COLUMBUS, Neb. -- Low numbers in police applicants around the state of Nebraska has been an ongoing issue. The Columbus Police Department has just recently launched a new apprenticeship program aiming to recruit young people into law enforcement.

The program is tied in with Central Community College as they hope to get students in the front door. 

“This is an opportunity for us, I think, to get into the minds of younger people that might be interested in a career in law enforcement and haven’t made up their minds as to what they want to do yet,” said Columbus Police Department Chief Charles Sherer. ”So this gives them an opportunity to get inside the department, take a look at what we do, and see if this is what they want for a career.”

This apprenticeship stems from an issue of dire need for law enforcement workers.

“The need is very dire,” Sherer said. “We are experiencing a drop in candidates across the board. When I first got into law enforcement, it would not be uncommon to go someplace and test and there will be 40 applicants in the room for one position. Now, I have three positions open and I will have only three people testing. And out of those three, I might only have one pass the test.”

Central Community College has the main tie-in to the apprenticeship. Through their law enforcement program, students can get first hand access to this experience. 

“It's just a great career path,” said Director of Criminal Justice at Central Community College Michael David. “It's kind of, if you're familiar with internships, it's what we have. It's kind of a short-term way. When our students are at the end of their academic degree program, we do a short-term 120-hour internship. This is actually a really neat way for them to be able to spend time in a law enforcement agency.” 

The main problems towns like these face is lower numbers of young adults as most of them have moved out to larger areas. But when it comes to wanting to start raising a family, Sherer believes this is the place to be.

“If they're looking to start a family, get married and raise kids, Columbus is a great place to do that,” Sherer said. “They got a great school system. They've got a great community. I think we have great morals and values here. And so that's the draw, we hope to draw, bring people in a small town value.

Not only would the apprenticeship be a beneficial and learning experience, but it's also for those with a sense of adventure. 

“They're going to be able to see it in action,” David said. “You know, they're going to be there. They're going to be working with law enforcement, the police officers, they're going to be working in that booking room. They're going to be working in the jails, under supervision of course, and they're going to be able to experience some hands-on what a police department really looks like and what a police officer does.”

Those who are interested in taking part in this apprenticeship can contact the City Human Resources Department at (402) 562-4243.