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Law enforcement recruitment grants become available

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Michigan law enforcement agencies can now apply for grants from the state to help with the costs of training recruits.

The new Public Safety Academy Assistance Program has $30 million set aside to award as scholarships to local agencies.

Robert Stevenson leads the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police. He said that could make a difference, since many potential officers currently have to pay their own way through academy.

“This allows us to … actually hire somebody before they go to the academy, and it also allows the person that’s going to the academy to get paid some money while they’re there to help compensate them for their time so it’s not all out of their own pocket,” Stevenson said.

Applications are now open to use the scholarships for recruits who plan to start academy training next year.

Officials say that compensation could also help close equity gaps by increasing accessibility to law enforcement training.

Tim Bourgeois is the executive director of the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards, which oversees the program. He said the costs and time associated with attending a training academy can be restrictive.

“It doesn’t afford you the opportunity to work and you’ve still got to eat, support yourself, perhaps support a family, have transportation and all those things. So, the ability to do that starts to skew middle class and the higher up that rung you go, the more likely it is it’s going to be a less diverse population there,” Bourgeois said.

The program is one way the state is trying to make up for officer shortages. Vacancies and recruiting troubles have become an increasing concern for law enforcement agencies in recent years. In the Detroit Police Department, for example, more than 200 officers have quit this year — an average of close to one a day.

Matt Saxton said he’s thankful the state is trying new ways to get more qualified people trained up. But he’s not sure whether it will be enough to get people interested in the job.

“The state’s assistance … with paying for training academies is a great benefit to the sheriff’s offices and the local PDs. However, if we can’t find the good men and women that want to join the profession, the money will just sit there,” he said.

Saxton said he feels conversations surrounding law enforcement need to be more positive to make the job more appealing to prospective recruits.

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