"It's probably the most rewarding career that any young man or woman could do," said Utica Police Chief Mark Williams of working with the police. But he said fewer people want to do it.
Williams became chief in 2010, and at that time, he said more than 500 people signed up for the Civil Service Exam. However, last year there were fewer than 170 candidates.
"It's dropped gradually every year," Williams said. "I think a lot has to do with the negative publicity law enforcement is getting now both nationally in the news as well as the difficulties of doing this job."
Not only do fewer people want to become police officers, but Chief Williams said less people can.
"Where we lose a lot of the candidates, believe it or not, is the physical agility test, and it's really not that hard. But what we see is a lot of young men and young women that are out of shape," he said.
Robert Swenszkowski is a practice-criminal justice professor at Utica College.
He said there haven't been any significant changes to enrollment, but he believes students are being more selective on where they go.
"They're getting a bachelor's degree and they're going to agencies that might actually require that as well so maybe some more federal jobs, the FBI, the NSA, the Border Patrol, U.S. Marshals, something like that, where they're trying to get the biggest bang for their buck," said Swenszkowski.
Swenszkowski has also been with the Oneida County Sheriff's Office for more than 20 years, and has seen shortages there too, especially in the last two years.
"There was one point where there was upwards of over 40 positions short on Corrections, and nearly 20 positions vacant on the patrol side, and that was the largest they've seen in their history," he said.
So where is the biggest disconnect and what can be done? Chief Williams believes community engagement can help as well as making the application process faster.
"I'd love to speed up the process so that we can hire them quickly, get them into an academy quickly, but there are state civil service rules that we have to follow and that makes it difficult to do," said Williams.
Right now, the process takes about a year.
Some departments have new incentives to encourage applicants. For example, the Utica Police Department now hires people with tattoos as long as they're not obscene.
The Police Benevolent Association has said there was a shortage of state troopers last year as well.