Local and state first responders working to solve a growing problem

It is a chance for law enforcement and public safety agencies to meet face to face with prospective candidates. The second annual Williamson County Career Fair for Public Safety Professionals was held in Hutto on Saturday.

The demand for more police officers, fire fighters and EMS personnel is exceeding the supply. That is why local agencies are taking the next step to help solve a complex problem.

For the Williamson County Sheriff's Office and Sgt. Kelli Bomer, their time is spent fighting more than just crime.
They are fighting to stay fully staffed.

"We just constantly have openings." Sgt. Bomer said, "Currently we have, at the Williamson County Sheriff's Office, four (openings) for patrol and our corrections division has over 20 openings and we are struggling to fill."

A struggle that is not limited to departments across Central Texas.

"Most agencies across the state that I've spoken to are also having that same struggle," Bomer said, "just not getting the applicants."

Or the country. The Memphis Police Department are looking for ways to patch a gaping hole in their force.

"Our (staff) Is about 2,400 officers and we are down by about 450 officers," Officer Kevin Moore said.

Officials said the decline of candidates is attributed to a perceived increase of danger to officers across the country. As well as a generational change to a more high tech focused society.

"We are having to compete with the private industry now days instead of just with each other," Bomer said.

The Memphis Police Department joined more than a dozen local and state agencies from Kyle to Dallas for the career fair. An event aimed to help find and bring in the next generation of public servants.

"This year the public turnout has been phenomenal," Bomer said.

"We've had a lot of interesting candidates here that we'd really like to take back to Memphis," Officer Moore said.

Candidates such as 21-year-old Matthew Steffers who is one of more than 140 people to attend the fair.

"I'm doing it because I am interested the law enforcement field." Steffers said. "Anything from corrections to SWAT and FBI. I want to do something to help the people, I'm people friendly so basically I want to retire wearing a badge on my chest and help the public."

Officers said it is that passion of helping that makes fighting to protect the community worth it.

"There is no greater feeling to go home each evening, knowing that you made a difference in the lives of those who look up to you," Moore said.

"If this is something you want to do, you can overcome any obstacle," Bomer said.

Officials said a career in public service is not for everybody but they are encouraging those who are interested to schedule at least one interview with a recruiter or do a ride along.

Just go to the website of the agency of your choice and search the term "recruitment". You may call or email an officer to schedule a ride along or meeting. They are free of charge.

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