NORFOLK, Va. -- The search for law enforcement officers has challenged sheriff's offices recently, and finding new recruits proves to be difficult.
"People don't seem to be signing to get into law enforcement as they have in the past,” Sheriff Jim O’Sullivan of the Chesapeake Sheriff’s Office said.
"Now you throw in COVID-19 and the civil unrest that we've faced in the past year, it's been difficult recruiting and retaining,” Chief Deputy Rocky Holcomb of the Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office said.
That is why local sheriff's offices have formulated new ways of bringing in new recruits. One way was by lowering the hiring age from 21 to 18.
O’Sullivan and Holcomb told WTKR they are seeing results.
“You think 18, but it really groups in 19- and 20-year-olds as well,” Holcomb said.
“Since we started a month ago,” O'Sullivan explained, “we've had 10 individuals apply that are under the age of 21, and we've hired three so far."
The Norfolk Sheriff's Office was the first in the region to lower the hiring age in 2018. As of Tuesday, the Hampton Sheriff’s Office is the latest to do the same.
"I had to change my way of thinking and follow suit to remain competitive,” O’Sullivan said.
Starting out, each city's sheriff's office may be different. O'Sullivan said new recruits have shadowed seasoned deputies in Chesapeake, while Holcomb says recruits will likely start at the correctional facility.
"I will keep a watchful eye on them,” O’Sullivan said. “That's something we're going to need to see how it plays out in the next year or two."
Both said they hope the trend continues.
"You can gain a lot of friendships and help a lot of folks along the way,” Holcomb said. "It's a satisfying career."