FORTY FORT, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — The national debate about law enforcement reforms, in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis, is reaching into virtually every community.
Eyewitness News has been talking with community leaders, including law enforcement officials, across our region about this national conversation. Today Eyewitness News went to a local police academy—a place where police officers of the future are trained.
“Obviously it’s on everyone’s mind. You can’t open your phone or look at the media without hearing about it,” said John Chilleri, Director of Police Academy Operations at Lackawanna College in Scranton.
He’s talking about the ongoing national debate regarding law enforcement reform. He expected to see a drop in the number of police officer candidates. That did not happen.
“In the last couple of months surprisingly we are seeing an interest, we are seeing an interest in enrolling in the academy,” Chilleri said.
He expects the usual 35 to 50 candidates to enroll for the next semester which starts later this month. Chilleri says the cadets will take part in new training programs that will address the current national debate over law enforcement reform.
“Obviously we are going to have lengthy discussions at the highest level of the college. We have been communicating and talking about putting together programs and dialogue,” Chilleri said.
The national conversation about law enforcement reform has also included talk of increasing community policing, getting citizens more involved in deterring crime in their own cities and neighborhoods. Linda Joseph is president of the Rolling Mill Hill Residents Association.
“So I think it’s important that the neighborhoods and the residents get involved and get to know them and do whatever we can to help them and be the eyes and ears on different things in the neighborhoods,” said Joseph.
Eyewitness News also spoke to police chiefs across the area. Many of the smaller departments are having a tough time finding officers to fill positions. The number of those who respond to job openings has declined in the last several months.
They are not sure why that is the case but believe the current atmosphere in the country has turned some people away from police work.