During my years in law enforcement I have seen increased expectations from citizens, courts, and governing bodies regarding the professionalism of law enforcement. This has been a positive evolution that has also increased the need for well-rounded people with specific skills and temperaments to carry out the professional work at higher levels demanded by society.

By now you might think I am writing to recruit the readers and people they know to consider a career in law enforcement, but my message is more comprehensive than that. I also work with many other service providers in law enforcement, mental health, advocates for sexual assault and domestic violence survivors, schools, fire and emergency medical services; local government and members of our small business community. A common theme has emerged during these weekly encounters and discussions. All of them are having difficulty recruiting employees and then retaining them after extensive resources are expended training them.

All of the aforementioned disciplines also comply with enhanced professional standards and regulatory oversight that require well trained and stable staffing in order for them to meet societal expectations.

The irony for me is that while society expects more, there are fewer qualified people stepping up to help us deliver on those higher expectations while serving others. I could get into “how it used to be” in terms of the overabundance of applicants that led to stable and committed employment, but that won’t help and most employers will tell you that is not a realistic expectation anymore. To a degree they are correct; however, I am not willing to settle that as a community we can’t figure this out and do better.

I still believe that Ottawa can continue to accomplish the great things that we see happening here, but members of our community cannot sit on the sidelines and wait for it to happen or for someone else to do it. The solution is not easy, won’t happen overnight, and never at an ending point. Individuals must support the proper education for their children, be actively involved in their children’s lives at all times, teach them the value of hard work and the importance of keeping commitments to their families, friends and employers, not giving up, extending courtesy and respect for others — even when they don’t deserve it, setting a positive example for others; admitting failure and learning from it. We must teach them that no matter their station in life they should do their best in that current role and wait for opportunities to improve their station in a constructive manner that is done honestly and humbly. When practiced, these traits don’t always result in us getting what we want at that moment or ever in some cases because that’s just how life works sometimes. Treating people badly (even on social media), being treated badly yourself, giving up and quitting over setbacks should never be an option. And don’t forget to encourage, help and mentor others to do all of the above.

Your community needs you.

— Dennis P. Butler

Chief of Police

Ottawa Police Department