KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) — The Kingsport Police Department (KPD) continues to search for workers to fill nine police officer positions.
KPD Public Information Officer Tom Patton said that while the department has experienced a short staff in recent years, the phenomenon was uncommon decades ago.
“Twenty years ago, [a vacancy to this extent] would’ve been unheard of,” Patton said. “Today, it is unfortunately becoming the normal. What’s interesting here is we’re not unique here in Kingsport. If we talked to other officers or other departments in the region, state and nation, that’s pretty much the norm — running as much as 10% short all the time.”
Patton attributed the shortage in part to scrutiny and backlash law enforcement officers have faced in the wake of civil justice movements following the deaths of civilians in high profile cases.
“A lot of people might be discouraged about applying for a career in law enforcement,” he said. “Maybe it’s something they’ve always thought they might be interested in doing or always dreamed of doing, and then they turn on the news and read the headlines and think, ‘Maybe I ought to think again.'”
Despite the national headlines, Patton described KPD as having an uplifting community to serve and protect.
“I will see that the city of Kingsport and Northeast Tennessee is a great place to be a police officer,” Patton said. “We have outstanding community support here, and we’ve spent the last several decades building great community relationships and partnerships and fostering a mutual public trust, and we just aren’t seeing the turmoil here in Kingsport that other departments are seeing in other parts of the country.”
Starting pay for a KPD police officer begins at $16.64 an hour, and onboarding includes extensive training to ensure each officer is equipped with the necessary tools to serve the community.
While the station continues to experience short-handedness, Patton said it won’t lower the bar to fill positions.
“We’re looking to hire as many good quality applicants as we can find,” Patton said. “But what we won’t do is we won’t lower our standards just to fill a vacancy.”
Physical agility tests launch as soon as May 25 and May 26. These tests mark the first entryway through the department’s application process. Requirements include running 1 mile in under 12 minutes and completing an obstacle course.
Those interested should complete and turn in their applications online by May 9.
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