Now hiring: Ocala Police Department recruiting from out of state to fill employee shortage

OCALA, Fla. — The “We’re Hiring” sign outside the Ocala Police Department may not go away anytime soon.

“Those patterns or trends show that I probably need about 22 to 25 additional officers right now,” said Chief Mike Balken with the Ocala Police Department.

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Balken said his department had difficulty with recruiting and keeping officers, and it’s not alone.

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Last year, a National Police Foundation survey found 86% of law enforcement agencies were dealing with staffing shortages.

Balken said officers are leaving for higher wages, and not as many young people see it as a desirable profession.

“We’ve tried to do a lot of outside-the-box thinking as it relates to recruitment and retention,” Balken said.

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While they used to recruit locally, Ocala police are now targeting officers from out of state, specifically where rioting broke out in the wake of George Floyd’s death, and public sentiment on police soured.

Balken is trying to sell out-of-state officers on warm weather, low cost of living and community support, something he hopes will work knowing he’ll need to add more officers as Ocala continues to grow.

“They’re going to find a certainly a different atmosphere, a welcoming atmosphere where they can come and enjoy a wholesome place to raise their families,” Balken said.

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Jeff Deal

Jeff Deal, WFTV.com

I joined the Eyewitness News team as a reporter in 2006.

Adam Poulisse, WFTV.com

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.