SARTELL -- Police departments across the state are feeling the pressures when it comes to recruiting and retaining officers.

Over the past few years departments have seen a decline in recruiting, and central Minnesota is no exception.

Sartell Police Chief Jim Hughes says three years ago they would get several hundred applicants when hiring for a patrol officer position, which isn't the case today.

Now it's anywhere for a patrol position, 30 to 60 if we are lucky. The golden days when we used to have a position open within the department we'd get a minimum of 200 applicants for one position.

Hundreds of law enforcement officials met in Bloomington earlier this week, to talk about the sharp decline in recruiting. Hughes was at the meeting and says a big reason for the decline is the negative light police officers receive nationally.

What we are asking for is for people to not judge us as what they see nation wide, but look at us as an individual agency. We can't be lumped into one group anymore than you can lump teachers into one group.

To help combat the problem the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association has launched a six-month campaign called "Wear the Badge."

Waite Park Police Chief Dave Bentrud serves on the board. He says the campaigns goal is to try to increase the number of recruits, especially in the younger generation.

The effort is trying to raise awareness of the shortage. This is a great job and career and we are just trying to create interest among candidates, both high school and college, to consider law enforcement.

Bentrud says when he made his first hire in 2009 they had 250 applicants, this year they only received 25. He adds the good news in all this is while there is a shortage of candidates, the officers vying for the positions are very qualified.

Both Hughes and Bentrud say they are concerned their departments will be shorthanded in the future especially with current officer wanting to retire.

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