By BRENT MARTIN
St. Joseph Post
A senior officer with the Buchanan County Sheriff’s Department says the department still struggles to fill positions, though the law enforcement sales tax passed by voters in 2021 has helped.
Buchanan County Chief Deputy Mike Donaldson says the national mood that turned against law enforcement the past few years, sparking the Defund the Police movement, prompted some in the profession to retire early.
“With a lot of the negativity, anyone who was eligible or close to being eligible decided, hey this might be good time for me to just go ahead and leave. It’s just not worth all the negativity to stay around,” Donaldson tells host Barry Birr on the KFEQ Hotline. “And, again, if they had the ability to retire there were several people that took that option.”
Donaldson says the department is grateful Buchanan County residents back law enforcement as seen by the 77% support given the law enforcement sales tax at the ballot box.
Donaldson says the department is looking to fill both commissioned and non-commissioned positions. Donaldson says testing the stress tolerance of an applicant is now part of the process the department uses in recruiting officers.
Donaldson says law enforcement is a fulfilling, but stressful career. And while mental health care has been available to officers in the past, annual evaluations now are mandated by the state of Missouri. Donaldson says the mandate overcomes a hesitancy to seek help that officers often had in the past.
“I would say anyone who does this job long-term, at some point would have benefitted from talking to someone having certain situations or just the cumulative effect of all the little incidents,” Donaldson says. “It’s good to be able to talk about it; to have someone help them through any issues.”
Donaldson says while counseling might come with a stigma for law enforcement officers, any veteran officer can testify to the stress that comes with the career.
“A lot of times when you start this, some of the things your veteran officers will tell you: here’s the steps you need to take to help you survive this career,” according to Donaldson. “And not just survive a critical incident, I mean survive the career itself.”