A laid-off steel worker in southern Illinois has graduated from a police academy in nearby Missouri. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch says he is not alone in turning toward the traditionally stable career of police work in tough economic times. But as cities grapple with tight budgets, demand has slowed – sometimes dramatically – leaving some police academy graduates without jobs. The job outlook for those eligible to become police officers may be just as tough as in other industries, said Anne Winkler, professor of economics and public policy at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. “You’re going to have a lot of people competing for a limited number of spots,” Winkler said.
Last year, Missouri licensed 1,355 academy graduates to become police officers, a 46 percent increase from 2004. Through last week, the state already has issued 1,311 licenses this year. Three police academies in the St. Louis area are reporting sharp increases in unsponsored applicants – those starting classes without the guarantee of a job after graduation. In Illinois, the recession has hurt police academies. Because police departments there generally hire recruits before enrolling them at academies, many classes are running less than half-full because cash-strapped cities can’t afford to hire new officers.