The high inventory of military-connected officers isn't surprising when taking Jacksonville's location into account. Situated on the coastal area of eastern North Carolina, the city's 110 sworn officers police a beat that's right outside the door to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, Marine Corps Air Station New River and several training areas. Up the road a bit is Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point. The town is populated with military-connected families.
The Jacksonville PD has always found a wealth of talent in its military-related applicants. Even though the department has a much higher than average association with the military and is almost always down 10 to 15 positions, the town as of this writing has no officers that fall under USERRA protection.
When the city loses military dependents who are also officers, they tend to leave for good, due to a spouse being deployed overseas or transferred. Yaniero says the department has lost a couple of officers to military contractors and a few others who, when facing military reactivation, chose to quit the police force altogether and take another road. "Their thing was, if they're going to go to Iraq again and they face another recall, they might as well go ahead and re-enlist," Yaniero says.
Yaniero, however, also has a built-in safety net for deployments that's one of those good news-bad news things: the turnover at the Jacksonville PD is so great that even if a large number of military reservists were called up from within the agency, the vacancy rate runs so high the department wouldn't have to hold a job open. Officers leave Jacksonville PD for all the usual reasons — more money, change of career, to relocate.
"Because of such turnover, we will have a vacancy when they come back," he says.
At this department, approximately 50 percent of the its sworn personnel are former military, with another 10 percent military dependents. Yaniero's relieved that, at least for the moment, he's not dealing with officers recalled to service, yet lingering on the books. He knows not to crow to loudly. This is a business that could change in the time it takes to squeeze the trigger.Always a loser
Reserves called up for deployment to war zones typically aren't thrilled about it, but they're filling an important position. That's why USERRA was created. Without it, the reserve levels would plummet and filling military ranks could revert back to the days of conscripted or mandatory service.
Criminal justice practitioners know that, and like the discipline and dedication the military bring to their jobs. It's the uncut umbilical cord that runs between these officers and the military that removes some of the luster from these hires.
And while no real solution is in sight, most agree that when the federal government mandates legislation that saps a department's finances or manpower, they should, at the very least, not cut the few programs that could actually help even things out.