Across the U.S., police departments are losing morale, public support and officers, in a year where major crises are piling up.
From Atlanta to Minneapolis, officers are resigning as support for law enforcement fades.
All this in the middle of a pandemic, that’s claimed the lives of more than 100 officers nationwide.
The scene is a little different here in western North Dakota, but law enforcement is still feeling the effects.
“Kinda knocking on wood,” Bismarck Police Chief Dave Draovitch said about staffing at the department.
Back in January, Chief Draovitch told KX News there were 13 vacancies within the department. But as of Monday, BPD is fully staffed.
“If everything goes according to plan when those officers get back in December from the academy, we’ll have more officers on the street than we’ve ever had in the history of the department,” Chief Draovitch shared.
When Kyle Kirchmeier took over as the Morton County Sheriff five years ago, the department had 32 officers. Now there are 36, down one officer due to a retirement.
“We’re sitting in a pretty good position, but as the community; as Morton County grows, then we’ll probably need to look at something in the near future,” Sheriff Kirchmeier added.
Although hiring has remained unaffected, watching the anti-police sentiment grow across the U.S. does hit home for local law enforcement.
“It’s important to own up to those mistakes when it happens, and if somebody does something criminal, then, by all means, they need to be charged…” Chief Draovitch shared. “But, it just wears on you after a while, because this profession, I’ll tell you 99.9% of the officers that you will ever meet are good officers, trying to do the right thing the best that they can.”
“And you gotta make sure that you get the right person for that position, that one that wants to be a protector and a part of the community, not an enforcer of the community,” Sheriff Kirchmeier explained.
With the exception of Fargo, protests in the state have remained peaceful, and in most cases, if not all cases, demonstrations were approved by police.
Chief Draovitch says although morale is alright here at BPD, it’s the pandemic that’s really been on his officers’ minds.
“A couple of weeks ago, we had 17 people either quarantined or tested positive for COVID,” he said.
Both Chief Draovitch and Sheriff Kirchmeier said there are support systems in place for those overwhelming moments.
“There’s the Employee Assistance Program that’s out there for people. We do have a Chaplain,” the Sheriff listed.
“They have each other. I mean, that’s huge,” the Bismarck Police Chief added.
Although both the Police Chief and Sheriff say there’s nothing but support from their communities, they have some concerns about the future of his profession.
“Our country, boy it’s really tearing itself apart right now, not only over law enforcement but over everything, and that concerns me,” Chief Draovitch added.
The Mandan Police Department is no longer fully staffed after achieving that for the first time late last year. Chief Jason Ziegler doesn’t think the pandemic or protests have anything to do with that.