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Moody's 'Thin Line Tribute' Courts Future Cops

pensacolapolicedepartment.jpg
Pensacola Police Department

In the wake of nationwide protests that erupted last year following the death of George Floyd and others, some are worried it’s getting tougher to recruit qualified police officers.

Local law enforcement, though, appears to be weathering the storm, as we hear from Mike Wood with the Pensacola Police Department.

“I’d say the applicants are down, I think they are nationwide; but they have not stopped,” Wood said. “It’s not a situation to where the Pensacola Police Department is going to be understaffed because of that situation. We do have applicants; we are hiring qualified personnel. But nationwide, that’s gone down.”

Some agencies report problems related to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Wood says that has not been the case for them.

“We didn’t see the numbers fluctuate because of that,” said Wood. “But the negative news on police does have an effect on that. But on the other hand, after 9/11 and other major incidents — where police are in a good light —we tend to see an increase in applications. So it goes back and forth.”

According to Attorney General Ashley Moody, more than 350 law enforcement officers nationwide were killed in the line of duty in 2020. So far this year, 146 cops have died in service.

In response, Moody is out with the initiative “Thin Line Tribute.” It’s aimed at promoting law enforcement as a viable career option.

“We want to make sure that we can attract good, talented men and women of integrity into the ranks of law enforcement,” said the AG. “That is so important to a nation, and a state, under the rule of law.”

There’s also a need for staffing the latest incarnation of law enforcement in cyberspace, as illustrated by recent ransomware attacks on businesses and utilities. Once again, Mike Wood at PPD.

“You have a lot of young folks coming out of college that are just really, really good at that; but in police work you have to work the streets first, you have to do the grunt work, if you will,” Wood said. “After that, they go into areas of specialty such as computer crimes, and that’s where they can really shine.”

Many watch cop shows, such as “Law and Order,” on television and are drawn to the idea of joining law enforcement. But if that’s their lone motivation, Wood is here to burst their bubble.

“Almost nothing is real on TV shows, they do it for effect and keep the viewers’ attention; where in the real world, police work can get very boring,” said Wood. “But it’s a great career, and I would encourage any young person to apply. I would encourage any young person to ride with us once we get that going again. We had to stop that because of COVID-19,” Wood said. “Sometimes it’s boring, and five minutes later there’s a lot of action.”

Those wishing to apply to the Pensacola Police Department, says Wood, have to meet a certain set of criteria.

“You need to have a high school diploma, you have to pass our background check, our physical fitness check, and you have to complete the police academy,” Wood said. “Now, you can do that on your own – there’s one at George Stone and I believe there’s another one in Okaloosa County. It takes nine months to complete that.”

Or, if you’re over 18, you can join PPD as a cadet.

“And if you do that, the city will pay your way through the police academy; and once you successfully complete that and take your Florida Standards Exam and pass that, then we can promote you to police officer,” said Wood. “They get a lot of hands-on experience, they’re able to start their benefits such as retirement at an early age. And they can see the police department [and] the police department can see them.”

Attorney General Ashley Moody also says ongoing conversations need to continue on how to create better relationships between police and the communities they serve. But she concedes that violence toward cops and efforts to decrease police funding could cause those who might put on the blue to never consider the profession.