Police officers want nothing more than to serve the public and make a positive impact on their neighborhoods, towns and counties.
That's why newly hired Chubbuck cop Mike Cammack has admired law enforcement his whole life.
It’s why Jeff Fortner — who recently started his position with Idaho State Police after 14 years on the force with the South Carolina Highway Patrol — views removing impaired drivers from the roads as a top priority.
And it’s why Pedro Bravo — who a month ago began patrolling Bingham County after working in the jail for two years — wants to give citizens a positive perspective on police officers.
Three officers in Southeast Idaho getting their feet wet in new positions — all striving for the betterment of the communities they’re serving.
But lately, finding qualified people interested in pursuing careers in law enforcement has been difficult.
“It’s tough to find people that want to be police officers,” said Chubbuck police Lt. Bill Guiberson. “It’s equally difficult to find people that can get through the entire background and training and everything else to actually become a working police officer.”
There are several pieces of evidence that point to why departments are struggling to fill their rosters. The job is demanding. Guiberson says applicants must have strong interpersonal skills, think on their toes and relate to people across the many rungs of the societal latter.
A three-year increase in police officer deaths could also be factoring in low turnouts. Though yearly police officer deaths have decreased little by little over the last 45 years, deaths have risen from 109 in 2013 to 135 in 2016. Of those 135 deaths, 64 of them were gun-related incidents — a 56 percent increase from 2015 when 41 officers died via firearms.
And though law enforcement in Southeast Idaho has good relationships with their communities, it’s hard to say the same thing nationwide.
“We’re pretty lucky here locally,” Guiberson said. “We’ve got a pretty good relationship with the citizens in Chubbuck and Southeast Idaho as a whole. ... You see a lot of communities where that relationship just deteriorates until something bad happens and then everything goes south.”
For three officers new to their positions in Southeast Idaho, the ability to make positive marks on their communities outweighs any negative connotations thrust upon law enforcement.
Mike Cammack saw how beneficial law enforcement could be watching his mother — who struggled with drugs and alcohol — be on the other side of the law when he was younger.
“I got to see kind of the benefit that comes with being involved with law enforcement,” Cammack said. “Sometimes people aren’t bad people, but they need help in certain times, and law enforcement action is the way they need help. That was something that I saw firsthand in my own life and I wanted to be a part of.”
Cammack grew up in the Boise area and graduated from Mountain View High School in 2010. After taking a few classes at the College of Western Idaho, he moved east to Pocatello with the intention of enrolling at Idaho State University.
But his mind drifted to the idea of a career in law enforcement, and his schooling at ISU never came to fruition. Instead, Cammack applied at the Chubbuck Police Department two years ago.
Initially, Cammack wasn’t selected. But he persisted.
“I just kind of stuck around and pestered the lieutenant a little bit and got to know some of the people on the force here,” Cammack said. “I went on some ride-alongs and just really tried to stay consistent, and it ended up paying off for me.”
It was eight years ago in South Carolina when Jeff Fortner responded to the fatal one-vehicle rollover wreck that cemented his passion to remove inebriated drivers from the streets.
“When I went and did the notification to the wife and family, (the driver’s) 8-year-old girl came up and asked me why I couldn’t stop her daddy from driving drunk,” Fortner said. “At that point, I made a career change as far as what I was going to try and do.”
Law enforcement runs in Fortner’s family. He grew up in upstate South Carolina, but five years ago, his wife’s parents moved to Southeast Idaho. When Fortner and his wife made their first visit, they were smitten with the Gem State. The couple moved to Idaho in April, and Fortner started the Idaho State Police academy in May.
Fortner, who mainly patrols the Blackfoot area in Bingham County, wants to get to know the citizens and be someone the public recognizes.
“I’m kind of more into community policing,” he said. “Getting to know the public, shake hands and kind of be one with the public. … At my age and my experience — I’m 42 and been doing this a long time — I really enjoy it.”
Working at the Bingham County Jail for two years has been beneficial for Pedro Bravo in his new position on patrol.
“Getting to know the people that kind of are repeat offenders,” he said. “People make mistakes here and there, and getting to know them, having conversations with people who’ve hit rock bottom and (figuring out) what we can do to help them.”
Bravo grew up in Bingham County and graduated from Aberdeen High School in 2011. After graduating, he attended the College of Southern Idaho, where he majored in criminal justice. He’s currently just a few credits away from attaining his degree.
Though Bravo flirted with the idea of moving across the state to Boise, life brought him back to Bingham County. He applied to work at the jail after getting married and becoming a father.
Then, about a month ago, Bravo fulfilled his dream of working patrol.
“I enjoy it,” he said. “I really enjoy it. … My overall goal is to kind of just be out there helping people that actually need help and that are shy or don’t like law enforcement. I want to be that difference — to get the word out there that officers are good. Just because (someone) had one bad experience with an officer doesn’t mean we’re all like that.”