GREENSBORO, N.C. -- One of the largest graduating classes in Greensboro Police Department history will be walking across the stage Thursday. It is a big achievement as most police departments across the country struggle with finding recruits.
Sgt. Ryan Todd works in the police department’s recruiting and background investigations unit. He said there are several reasons why more people are interested in the job, but the main draw is the connection officers have with the community.
“I wake up every morning and put my boots on knowing that I might be able to help out someone today,” Officer William Whitley said.
Whitley has been patrolling the streets of Greensboro for about a year and a half.
“You know every kid wants to be a police officer,” Whitley said.
An encounter he had in college helped him solidify that dream. A police officer pulled him over for speeding.
“I remember him being very respectful and very understanding,” Whitley said. “I still got a ticket.”
Todd said encounters like that are one of the reasons why GPD is having success recruiting new officers.
“One of our recent recruits was a victim of a robbery at a retail establish where he worked and it was his interaction with the officers that showed up that made him attracted to the career,” Todd said.
On Thursday, 40 people will graduate from the police academy. It is the largest class since 2012.
Todd said over that time interest has fluctuated.
“We've seen some as low as 20 folks but we have seen some in the high 30s,” Todd said.
He believes that’s because of things like the economy, college, other job opportunities and public perception.
“It is consistently a challenge with public perception and what policing is like in America,” Todd said.
In Greensboro, he said things have been good. Recruits not only like the community interaction, but also the city itself.
“It is a beautiful city and the cost of living is fairly low,” Todd said.
The pay is competitive, starting at more than $38,000, and there’s room for growth and variety.
“You can do three or four years at a patrol officer and then be a canine officer or work as a detective,” Todd said.
The job also puts you in a position to help people.
"They are not here to antagonize,” Whitley said. “They are not here to ruin your day. If you do something bad yeah something will happen. We are not doing it because we want to, we are doing it because we have to.”
Right now, GPD is looking to hire for its police academy starting in September. For more information, head to this website.
FOX8 also checked in with the Winston-Salem Police Department to see how its recruiting efforts are going. A few years ago, it would have as little as 12 to 13 people in their classes. On Monday 33 people started the police academy.