ATLANTA — Police officer and deputy ranks are shrinking and it's causing concern across the law enforcement community.

"It's been challenging," Chuck Wexler with the Police Executive Research Forum said.

The non-profit in Washington studies police trends. Its findings suggest the statistics are alarming - especially the recruitment of millennials. Wexler said research reveals social media and negative press are hurting the perception of the badge.

"You have higher scrutiny. You have accountability. You have body-worn cameras. You have citizens taking pictures and police officers have a difficult job," he said.

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Plus, with a robust economy, millennials have more career options.

A recent survey of state and local governments nationwide found the position that's hardest to fill is police officer - a close second to engineering.

"We're closing the gap," Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields said.

Shields said they were down hundreds of positions until they offered a more competitive salary.

"Our hiring was up over 50 percent last year," she said. "We were down about 400 at one point but now we're about 150 so we're going to keep cranking it up."

Many agencies are becoming more creative in recruiting. The competition is so fierce between agencies that Gwinnett County has been hitting the road.

"In doing so, we've traveled to Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida, New York, Massachusetts - all in search of qualified good applicants for the police department," Gwinnett Police Corporal Collin Flynn said.

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It used to take Gwinnett County Police months to process an application. Now, they can offer a job on the spot.

"They can come into one of our hiring events and do the physical fitness, the oral board, the background and preliminary background investigation all in one day," Flynn said.


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