Becoming a law enforcement officer is not a fast process.
It can take almost a year from the time a job is advertised until a new officer is ready to be out on the street alone. And in that time, other officers probably were hired and began the same program.
“We’re just not able to catch up,” Bismarck Police Deputy Chief Dave Draovitch said.
After people apply for advertised jobs, they have to show up for tests. After they pass tests, background checks, interviews and psychological examinations, candidates chosen for positions in departments have to go through varying levels of training.
If they are brand new to law enforcement, they have to go through an 11-week program at the Law Enforcement Training Academy. The departments also put them through in-house training, which takes about two months, and field training programs where they are with experienced officers, which lasts two to three months.
Burleigh County Sheriff Pat Heinert said his department is in “full-time training mode.”
“We have somebody training almost all of the time,” he said.
That constant training puts a strain on entire departments. Field training officers — the experienced officers who provide on-the-job training — have more work to do than just show a new officer the ropes. Shifts aren’t fully staffed, meaning vacations or sick time can mean officers are running from call to call. There isn’t enough time to adequately do traffic enforcement and more proactive efforts toward community safety. It also costs the department in overtime pay for officers to cover unfilled positions.
“That adds to others having to carry more of a work load,” Bullinger said. “That affects being able to be proactive. We’re more reactive today than we want to be.”