LAPD having hard time finding qualified applicants

LOS ANGELES

In May, 37 new officers got their diplomas. At that time, the department had reached its goal of 10,000 officers. Since then, the numbers have been dropping.

"We need about 800 people a month to apply so that we can fill up our classes. We've had to skip a class or two just because we haven't been able to fill those classes," said LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith.

The department is having trouble finding qualified applicants. There is a thorough background check, and obvious things like a criminal history will disqualify someone. But your credit history is also a factor. After the recession, that affects more and more applicants.

"People that aren't able to handle their credit and for one reason or another end up getting into some kind of debt, until they get that straightened out, that's generally a disqualifier," said Smith.

And there is more competition for good applicants. As the economy improves, other agencies are also hiring and some pay more than the LAPD. Even those agencies, however, say it's tough.

"We go through thousands of applicants to get down to even 100 people. So it is not an easy thing even when you're being successful," said Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca.

For several years, the city has seen a dramatic reduction in crime. But officials wonder what could happen if there are fewer officers in the streets.

"Maybe a little slower response times in some of the neighborhoods, maybe just not quite as many people as they have out there in the police cars," said Smith.

Officials worry the longer this goes on now, the harder it will be to catch up in the future. There could be a shortage of officers for years to come.

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