Trempealeau County Sheriff’s Office, other law enforcement agencies struggling to find qualified applicants

WHITEHALL, Wis. (WKBT) – Trempealeau County Sheriff Brett Semingson says he is not alone.

Departments statewide are having a hard time recruiting qualified law enforcement officers.

“It’s a relatively scary time in law enforcement right now,” Semingson said.

Over roughly the last 15 years, Semingson says the department has seen an 80 percent decline in applications.

So, why are less people applying?

Semingson says families are getting smaller, and anti-police sentiment is not going away.

He says Trempealeau County residents overwhelmingly support law enforcement, but says that is not the case with what’s happening around the country.

“You see what’s happening nationwide, and it’s hard not to take it personally,” Semingson said.

As for those who do apply, Semingson says many of them come from other departments.

“I’ve never seen the competition amongst agencies the way it is right now,” Semingson said.

Other candidates are college graduates, giving schools like Western Technical College an important role.

“We take it very serious, and we’re trying to be part of the solution,” Dean of Health and Public Safety Kevin Dean said.

Western offers a police academy program during the spring and summer.

During these programs, students mentally and physically prepare for the law enforcement field.

Dean says once students graduate from the academy, they meet the qualifications to become a sworn officer for any Wisconsin agency.

He says there are 21 students recruited for this year’s spring program, which is more than what Western averages.

“At the end of the day, it’s the student that’s going to have to decide if this is going to be their career path,” Dean said. “But, we’re going to give them all the necessary tools to be successful.”

An opportunity Semingson says few are willing to take.

“It’s concerning,” Semingson said.

Semingson says he has no openings right now, but his staff is aging. He says in just a few months, there will be an opening for patrol deputy.

Dean says many departments are hiring unqualified candidates, sponsoring them, and then putting them through Western’s police academy.

Semingson says wages are not an issue for his staff. He says the department offers up to $30 per hour to patrol officers.

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