Law Enforcement Recruitment Numbers Down
Physical training, firearms, and constitutional law are just a few lessons the students in the police academy must learn about before they can protect and serve.
Samuel Huerta is excited to be one of fifteen students in the current class at the Santa Fe Police Academy.
"I've always just looked up to like military and law enforcement," Huerta said. "I know a lot of people aren't really fond for it, but I love marching. Just being a unit, being an element, that's what I like the most."
Law enforcement agencies often pay to put new hires like Huerta through the program, but the number of people looking to go into this field have been dropping. HR departments across the country say its becoming a challenge to keep positions filled.
Ivelisse Monuz, the HR Director at the Alachua County Sheriff's Office, said one of the main reasons for the drop is because of the demands of the job.
"They're on point for 12 hours," Munoz said. "Anything can happen at any moment at the jail, or even just a routine stop at a residency, things can go south really fast."
Munoz said Alachua County doesn't face the issue as heavily as other departments, but it's still a problem. She said she believes it has a lot of it has to do with job appreciation.
"To protect somebody's life and have that person not be appreciative of it, or to maintain care and custody in the jail and not have that appreciated in the community I think is challenging."
Many people feel as though there's been a change in the perception of law enforcement over the years. Huerta says it doesn't stop him.
"That actually gives me more of an incentive to go into it," Huerta said. "You know in every job you have a bad apple, or you have one person who ruins it for everybody. It just so happens that with the media and stuff like that, they only capture what's bad in a lot of instances."
Another student in Huerta's class, Hayley Miller, said this dream is all she has known.
"I've known since I was about fourteen that I wanted to be a police officer," Miller said. "I can't think of anything else I've ever wanted to do ... I don't feel like there's anything more gratifying than helping people who can't help themselves."
Huerta and Miller both said bringing positive attention to the work of police officers is something that doesn't happen enough, and it's something they want to change.
"You definitely just have to have an open mind and I think just the will to help people in the long run," Huerta said. "Everyday is a new day, that's how I see it."