PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Lantez Carpenter said he always wanted to be a police officer. Born and raised in Peoria, he and nine fellow recruits are the newest graduates of the University of Illinois Police Training Institute.
The 14-week training academy is not the military-based program some may think it is, he said.
“You’re learning how to talk to people, you’re learning medical things, you’re learning how to interact with children, people with disabilities, so there’s a lot of training that goes in and it’s a very wide range of trainings,” he said.
The Peoria Police Department is looking for a few more good men and women to protect and serve the community, but is struggling to find new recruits, according to Captain Scott Cook.
Cook said it’s a rewarding career, but despite putting up billboards, bus ads, and radio commercials, they are having a tough time attracting talent.
“Some of the things going on in society in general, concerns about interactions with police and the community, has caused some people to hesitate,” he said.
District 2 Councilman Chuck Grayeb said the police force is getting stretched thin, and unable to handle things like speeding tickets because they are too busy responding to crime.
Grayeb said there were 250 officers back in 2010 and that he sees a “correlation between the amount of crime and the number of officers on the street.”
Cook said they have 209 officers and authorized by city council to have 222. Three new recruits were sworn in on May 3 and will head to the Police Training Institute next week.
“Right now they’re running from call to call to call because of the paucity, lack of an effective police force in terms of its numbers,” he said.
Grayeb said public safety needs to be a top priority for the city council, because it affects everything, including population growth.
“You can have the loveliest neighborhood but if the people in that neighborhood don’t feel safe, they are going to vote with their feet,” he said.
Cook said the process to become a police officer can be a lengthy one.
“[By] the time we hire someone, get them through the academy, [and] put them through field training, we’re looking at close to a year,” he said, adding that there are 20 officers currently in field training.
Cook said diversity is important, and they are “constantly working toward the goal of mirroring what the community looks like.”
Carpenter said he hopes to make being a police officer “cool again,” and it’s important for officers to be approachable.
“Be patient. The process is long, but it is worth it in the end … We have a lot of fun but we also take our job very seriously because most of the time it’s somebody’s worst day ever,” he said.
Those interested in joining can visit the official PPD recruiting page. Cook said applicants must be at least 21 years of age, have a high school diploma and no felonies. The next exam is in August.