PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — As the city of Port St. Lucie continues to grow, its police department needs to keep pace.
But like many industries, it is facing challenges with hiring.
WPTV spoke with Port St. Lucie Police Chief John Bolduc about how they're making headway during a time when officer conduct is in the national spotlight.
Master Officer James Olson signed off Tuesday, ending his 34-year law enforcement career.
Master Officer James Olson retires from @PSLPolice after 34 years. What the agency is doing when it comes to recruitment of new officers today @WPTV pic.twitter.com/lujC6vatoJ— Jon Shainman (@JonShainman) January 31, 2023
"It's been a great honor to serve the community and work with the people that I do," Olson said.
He served as one of the main training officers for the Port St. Lucie Police Department.
"The big thing we've always pushed, the more training they have, the more confidence they have, the better ability they'll have to do their jobs properly," Olson said.
He and fellow retiree, Officer Victor Garcia, leave with 58 years of service. Garcia was the agency's recruiter.
Because the city of Port St. Lucie was founded only 60 years ago, it's still considered a relatively young department, and right now it's going through its first major wave of retirements. So, the challenge for the agency is to recruit new officers.
Two new police officers were sworn in on Tuesday.
Both of them have law enforcement experience and came from other agencies, highlighting one challenge.
"Officers are moving from department to department," Bolduc said.
Port St. Lucie had 16 vacancies last May. That number is now down to five.
Recruitment bonuses from the state, and the city's cadet program have helped plug the gap, which has been especially challenging in the wake of the officer arrests in Memphis.
"That behavior is totally unacceptable," Bolduc said. "That is not what law enforcement is about."
The chief said by staying up on the latest techniques like de-escalation training, those tragedies should not happen here, and a new law this July requires officers to intervene when they see another officer using excessive force.
"A good officer is going to tap his zone partner on the shoulder and say, 'Step back, let me take this,'" Bolduc said.
The newest members of the department are ready to create positive first impressions.
"It's great to go out there and show the community that not every law enforcement officer is bad, that we're on their side," Port St. Lucie Police Officer Jose Chaparro said.
So, while one generation is just getting started, the old guard prepares to head out.
"Thank you, appreciate you," Olson said Tuesday as he signed off. "You all be safe."