Police Agencies Feeling Nationwide Trend In Region 8

Jonesboro, AR -- Jonesboro police officer Philip Coleman is fulfilling a boyhood dream.

"It's in my family, it's what I have always wanted to do--I just love it," said Coleman.

The Jonesboro Police Department, like departments nationwide, is having a hard time not only finding top notch officers, but retaining them as well.

"You know we could relax our standards but you really don't want to do that in law enforcement," said Jonesboro Police Chief Mike Yates.

Chief Yates said his applicant pool is reduced from the very beginning.

"There's a change in culture where coming into law enforcement may not be as attractive to our generation x and y people. Our standards are pretty high especially when it comes to drug use and previous run-ins with the law," said Yates.

"They've all left for better paying jobs," said Craighead County Sheriff Jack McCann.

McCann has 28 deputies.

He says on average he'll lose around 2 deputies a year to different jobs.

He says he doesn't have a hard time filling vacant spots because he tries to look within the department for replacements when possible....for example hiring jailors.

"The good thing about hiring out of the jail is that we know their work history, we know their work habits....we know them," said McCann.

Both Chief Yates and Sheriff McCann say their not losing officers to other local departments--they're losing them to jobs in the private sector where they can double and sometimes even triple their salary.

"Our officers, after they have been here four or five years, are very marketable to insurance companies, and security companies, and pharmaceutical companies because they are dependable, and have a good reputation and a good skills set," said Yates.

Yates concedes the city probably can't compete with the pay in the private sector, but he hopes the incentives package he's working on will make jobs in law enforcement more competitive.

"Most of the people that come into law enforcement do it because they love it, not so much because of the money," said Yates.

It's that passion for the job that makes this career so enjoyable for Philip Coleman.

"I'm right at a year here,  and I have loved every minute of it," said Coleman.