GREENFIELD — When Brock Wright was a 17-year-old student at New Palestine High School a few years ago, a speaker from the United States Air Force military police came in and spoke to his class about a career in the military. While Wright wasn’t sure a future in the armed forces was right for him, he knew he wanted to serve his community in some capacity.

Wright, 22, only has some paperwork to complete at Ball State University before he’ll earn a criminal justice degree with a minor in scuba law enforcement. Wright was one of 20 people who showed up at the Greenfield Police Department bright and early Saturday morning to go through physical agility and written testing in the hopes of becoming a GPD officer this year.

“This is the career that I think is best for me,” Wright said. “I think every day would be different, show you a different aspect to policing and that suits me instead of doing the same thing over and over.”

Wright is certain he wants to be a police officer after spending the summer with the GPD as an intern where he was able to watch firsthand and learn a little bit about the profession from career law enforcement officers.

“Being in law enforcement is all about the challenge of overcoming the obstacles of the day,” Wright said. “I’m a competitive person and I want to do well in everything and I see this job opportunity as a challenge and I want to overcome those challenges and prove myself worthy of this position.”

The former NPHS track and cross country athlete said the internship with GPD helped him see firsthand what law enforcement is really all about.

“The people here treated me with respect and were truthful with me about things and that was eye-opening, something I respect a lot,” Wright said.

Wright may of had a leg up on the competition Saturday, but the agility testing was designed to bring out the best in everyone competing for the two job openings.

“Give it your best today,” Deputy Chief, Chuck McMichael said to the candidates before the agility testing began. “It’s going to be competitive so give it your all.”

McMichael, assisted by other GPD officers, held the physical agility section of the application process Saturday morning. He noted the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy sets two standards for physical fitness, an entrance standard and an exit standard. The entrance standard is what a candidate must obtain to get into the academy and the exit standard is a higher standard, which a candidate must get in order to graduate the academy.

“In order to make sure any candidate that we hire is able to graduate, we test for exit standards,” McMichael said.

The reasoning? They want everyone they hire to be in good enough physical shape to pass the academy’s exit mark.

The candidates were put through about a hour and a half of workout drills including sit-ups, push-ups, standing vertical jump, 300-meter sprint and a mile and a half run.

“It’s quite a bit,” McMichael said. “After a break, we’ll do a written exam.”

While the department was glad to have at least 20 people show up, the number of people wanting to get into law enforcement continues to decline.

In 2008, when GPD K-9 handler/detective Stephen Kalk applied for the job, there were 275 candidates who showed up compared to the 20 in this hiring class.

“Unfortunately, this is what it has been like for the past handful of hiring processes,” Kalk said. “We wish the numbers were higher, but with the way things are in the world now days, no one wants to be a police officer.”

The department also used to get many applicants who served in the military or reserves and therefore came in with plenty of top-notch training, however that kind of recruit has also declined.

“This is a new generation of kids now days,” Kalk said. “With the real green kids, it’s even a task having to teach them real communication skills.”

Kalk said that most of the young people who apply now are from the generation raised on social media with their heads constantly buried on computer devices.

“Some of the young people we get applying don’t even know how to really communicate and talk with people anymore,” Kalk said.

Officials noted other departments, such as the Indianapolis Police Department and the Indiana State Police, are also struggling to find top-notch candidates.

“It’s difficult everywhere and it doesn’t matter what the pay is or where the department is,” Kalk said. “It’s just hard finding good candidates.”

McMichael noted they originally started out with 54 people who filled out an initial application. When the second part of the hiring process — providing references, work history, credit reports and more — happened, many people weeded themselves out.

“We ended up with 20 who showed up today,” McMichael said.

With only two positions open, McMichael noted they’ll selected the top two, but also create a list of other candidates they can go back to when an opening occurs.

Wright, who could have applied at any police department in the state or elsewhere, said he selected GPD because he’s kept his eye on the department for a few years and feels it’s one of the best in the state.

“I’ve always heard great things about the department, and I do have a ton of family in the county and in New Pal so I do want to stay local,” Wright said.

Officials with the GPD noted that, even with the low number of candidates, they’ve been able to find a couple of solid, quality candidates and for that they feel most fortunate.

“We’ve been pretty lucky on that lately,” Kalk said.

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