It’s getting tougher and tougher to work in law enforcement.
Such was the message Canton Police Department’s top brass had for congressional candidate Steve Woodsmall this month. The meeting, organized by Woodsmall’s Campaign Director, Ralph Hamlett, also a Canton Alderman, allowed Canton Police Chief Shawn Gaddis, and his second in command, Capt. Scott Sluder, to air their concerns to Woodsmall.
Some of the issues discussed were the obvious problems both parties likely anticipated, such as the opioid crisis.
“That is something we hear every day … we see the ripple effects from people who are victims of other crimes like breaking and entering and larcenies,” Gaddis said.
Another major topic discussed was recruitment and retention, which has been a major problem at departments big and small across the nation.
“I have seen it for 25 years, and we’ve seen people come in for us and after two years they go to Highway Patrol or the Sheriff’s Office,” Gaddis said.
Part of the reason it’s tough to keep officers, especially at smaller departments, is relatively low pay and a lack of benefits, especially health insurance.
“It may be fine for the employee, but the cost becomes astronomical for a whole family,” Gaddis said.
As expected, Woodsmall, a Democrat, seized on the opportunity to highlight his desire to see healthcare for all.
One of the places Gaddis said he’d like to see more officers is in Canton’s schools, but School Resource Officers can be hard to fund. While he noted that the school system has been great at hearing his concerns and working with his department, he thinks it would do a number to enhance school safety to have SROs at every campus.
And while both Gaddis and Sluder were thrilled to have such valuable training resources, such as Haywood Community College and Ednyville’s Justice Academy so close, they said they would like to have more monetary support for training.
Likewise, equipment is a concern for Canton Police Department. VIPER radios were introduced in the state to allow easy communication between various entities, but the problem is, many departments simply can’t afford them. At $1,800 per radio, purchasing 20 radios, 20 walkie talkies and equipment for the communications center itself comes at a hefty cost.
“We’re struggling just to get onboard,” Gaddis said.
“It needs to not just be the police. It needs to be for all emergency services,” Sluder added.
Ultimately, the discussion focused on an overall lack of resources and the effect that has on public safety. While the department has had some success obtaining grants, the officers were candid about their desire to receive more help from local, state and federal governments.