NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — The New Haven Police Department is among the departments across the country that are facing an officer shortage.

“Being from New Haven, growing up born and raised, I’ve seen many officers throughout my life become an inspiration to me,” explained Officer Shantel Ratchford of the New Haven Police Department. “Every time I look at them, I want to be like that person.”

What drives Ratchford to wear this uniform daily goes far beyond protecting and serving.

“Every time I see someone I know, they’re proud of me,” Ratchford said. “That makes me go even harder.”

As one of the newest members of the New Haven Police Department, she hopes to positively impact the community she grew up in and inspire others, specifically women, to join the force.

“There might be some ups and downs along the way, but if you really want it, get to it, you got it!” Ratchford said.

She started at a critical time as there was a shortage of police officers.

“We’re feeling that locally right now,” said Assistant Chief David Zannelli of the New Haven Police Department.

Zannelli said they’re down about 90 officers. He said these are the three main reasons why:

  • Younger people and potential candidates are looking for greater flexibility and work-life balance,
  • Law enforcement, as a whole, is facing increased criticism and
  • There’s hope for better pensions, pay and benefits.

Without a collective bargaining agreement, Zannelli told News 8, that’s made things even more challenging.

“We’re actively working with the union and the city, and we hope to reach an agreement in the near future,” Zannelli said.

Those vacancies impact officers, especially as the department has experienced an increase in calls.

“We have officers leave because we’re short-staffed,” he explained. “Because of that, we have to order officers to stay more so than we have in the past.”

Now, there’s a push to recruit officers and retain the ones they have. Recruitment banners hang outside police headquarters and over Whalley Avenue.

“There are so many avenues you can take in this profession,” said Sgt. Paul Finch of the New Haven Police Department. “Whether it’s schools as a school resource officer, actually getting involved in a neighborhood and making real change in a neighborhood as a patrol officer, or advancing your career being a detective, being a sergeant, being a lieutenant, and working your way up.”

Sgt. Paul Finch works within the department’s recruitment and background unit to fill those spots, finding the right people to join them.

“We end up being a family because we spend so much time together,” he said. “Then, on top of that, we have to be safe. You have each other’s back and doing this together.”

For a closer look at how you can apply, click here