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Nashville feeling the pinch of low police recruit turnout, FOP says

(WZTV)

Stephen Larios puts his all into his east Nashville skate shop. It's more than a hobby. It's his bread and butter. He's thankful the police help keep it safe.

“It warms my heart when I see a patrol car parked here, because it’s a good thing,” said Stephen Larios, owner of Asphalt Beech Skate Shop.

He said officers are usually camped out in his parking lot but that type of presence could soon run its course.

“We’re seeing a lot of five to seven to nine-year officers decide that this is no longer where they want to be,” said James Smallwood, president of the Nashville Fraternal Order of Police.

Smallwood worries Nashville can't recruit enough new officers or keep the ones they have, creating a major safety issue especially with all of Nashville's growth.

“They're seeing that other cities are taking good care of their employees. The same is not being taken care of here, so they’re going other places,” added Smallwood.

Smallwood blames the drop in officers on them not getting their cost of living raise in the 2019 budget cycle along with tension between police and the community and what he calls criticism of police calls.

He says it's a problem nationwide, but Nashville is feeling the pinch of low recruit turnout.

Despite losing some officers, 911 calls are on the rise. According to a Metro Police crime statistics report, last year, police were dispatched 203,517 times. So far, this year, there have been more than 207,105 calls

That worries Stacy Freeman who recently moved to Nashville.

“I definitely don’t walk around at night just because I live not far from here. Sometimes we'll hear gun shots or arguments and it seems like police don't come around as often,” said Freeman.

A Metro Police spokesperson tells FOX 17 News the department is aggressively recruiting by going to local colleges, participating in cultural fairs and hosting several job fairs. The current new recruit class has 60 members. Smallwood says more officers are needed.


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