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A drop in cops signing up for the job

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Posted at 4:32 PM, Aug 13, 2014
and last updated 2014-08-13 19:38:29-04

SANDY -- The number of people signing up to be police officers has declined in recent years, an indication of a recovering economy.

The Utah Department of Corrections graduated 45 cadets from its training academy on Wednesday, but there's dozens more positions with Utah's prisons still unfilled.

"We have approximately 80 openings right now," said Rollin Cook, the executive director of the Utah Department of Corrections. "That's just in our prison system, so we have a lot of empty positions we need to fill."

Corrections officials also plan to open an expansion of the Central Utah Correctional Facility in Gunnison within the next year, needing more officers to staff it.

Corrections officials and Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) said they have noticed a decline in people signing up to be police officers, a turnaround from years ago when economic decline had people rushing to enroll. Most of the declines appear to be at satellite academies scattered across the state, according to numbers provided by POST on Wednesday.

"A lot of it has to do with the economy," said Cook. "When the economy goes down, we oftentimes have more people that want to come in and do our work. Our work is extremely difficult, we don't pay a great amount and it's tough to find people, so when the economy turns great they start looking for other opportunities."

Corrections said it holds job fairs and tries to actively recruit cadets. Some agencies hire and then pay for people to go through the academy before they start with a police department.

Law enforcement is a tough job with high-stress and unique requirements. But Kane County Sheriff Lamont Smith, who has been in law enforcement for 26 years, said it is a rewarding career.

"It's fantastic," he said. "I was in construction like most kids, trying to raise my family. Then at 37, I got into law enforcement."

Among those who graduated from the academy, Tara Moss said she was looking forward to a career in corrections.

"It's a great move to go into corrections. They have so much to offer. You can move around, you're not just stick in the prison," she said. "It's a starting point."

Details on corrections jobs can be found here.