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The challenges of modern day police departments

Matthew Lane • Jul 5, 2020 at 1:15 PM

KINGSPORT — If you ask any police chief, from anywhere in the country, what the biggest challenge departments are facing these days, odds are they’ll tell you it’s the recruitment and retaining of qualified officers.

This opinion comes from Kingsport Police Chief David Quillin, who has had to deal with this very issue for the past several years.

The Kingsport Police Department was accepting applications for new officers in an attempt to fill 10 vacancies. The deadline to file was last week. According to Quillin, 127 people applied.

That was the second time this year the KPD has put out a call for applicants, with the first taking place in January, when 186 people applied to fill 10 vacant positions.

Of those vacancies, three were due to retirements, one of which took place on Tuesday.

“We’re hopeful that we’ll be able to get some really great candidates (of the 127 applicants),” Quillin said.

From the time someone submits an application to when they’re on the road flying solo as an officer, the process takes about six months, Quillin said. Candidates have to take a physical fitness test, go through the police academy, be interviewed by a panel of officers, have a one-on-one with Quillin, and submit to a background check and medical and psychological exams.

How police officers perform their jobs — and the role of law enforcement in general — has come to the forefront of national news since the May death of George Floyd while in the custody of the Minneapolis Police Department.

Protests and riots took place across the country in the aftermath, and the national conversation has since included everything from police brutality, the appropriate response to situations, the claim of systemic racism in America, and the defunding of law enforcement agencies.

Quillin said he and his officers are certainly aware of what’s on the news every day and it’s something that does have an effect on them.

“I really believe the vast majority of police officers in this country — and there’s about 800,000 — are doing the job for the right reasons,” Quillin said. “Officers who get up and come to work and want to do the right thing and make a difference. I know that’s the case here in Kingsport.”

In some parts of the country where tensions are high and more radical changes are taking place, some police officers are choosing to leave the profession, either through retirement or switching jobs entirely. Some fear police will only respond to the most serious of calls and severely curb community policing efforts.

Quillin said he believes the morale of the Model City’s officers is good.

“When officers see things across the country that they had no part of, it can change the way people perceive them or officers in general. And that can be disheartening,” Quillin said. “But we’re keeping our heads up, we’re appreciative of the support ... and we’ll continue to come to work and do the right thing each and every day and wear the uniform proudly.”

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