They protect and serve and now the Blair Police Department (BPD) is facing a similar issue as departments around the country: lack of recruits and retaining officers.

In the last five years, BPD has lost 14 officers and more than 60 years of experience. Officers have left for a number of reasons, including retirement, career changes or transferring to other police departments. Those losses have resulted in a nearly 70 percent turnover rate.

And they are not alone. Departments around the state and country are having issues filling positions.

According to a recent federal report, between 2013 and 2016, the number of sworn peace officers nationwide fell by more than 23,000.

BPD is fully staffed when it has 17 officers. Currently, the department has 12 officers. The Blair City Council approved mayoral appoints of two new officers at its Jan. 22 meeting and two more at its Feb. 26 meeting. However, they have not yet been hired.

Two of the officers are certified, which will help get more officers on the road. However, two are not and must complete 13 weeks of field training and four months at the Nebraska Law Enforcement Training Center in Grand Island.

There are a number of factors as to why officers have left BPD and why its been so hard to fill those positions. Larger departments can offer more pay and benefits.

In the last two years, Blair has lost six officers to the Omaha and Papillion police departments.

While Blair will never be able to compete with those larger cities on its pay scale, the city must come up with solutions to recruit and retain officers. That could mean hiring bonuses to certified officers and other various perks, which could make Blair more marketable to potential officers.

Not enough officers patrolling the streets puts residents and the other officers at risk. No one wants to see that happen.

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