WEST FARGO — The West Fargo Police have a plan to address the current shortage of police officer applicants while giving college students a way of getting hands-on training for a future in law enforcement.

Police Chief Dennis Otterness announced last week that the department was launching a new community service officer position that will employ students enrolled in a law enforcement or criminal justice program.

“Just like other industries, the law enforcement profession is experiencing a shortage of qualified candidates for our positions,” Otterness said.

The West Fargo Police department has long had community service officers who were full-time officers who handled calls such as animal control, bicycle calls, unlock doors and other similar community service duties.

The new positions will be part-time and temporary and will be responsible for enforcing parking and animal ordinances, assist sworn and civilian staff with records and reporting tasks and respond to vehicle unlocks and lost bicycle calls. This position will also assist the Community Outreach Programs and Services Unit during community engagement events.

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“Our goal is to give these students real-world experience as a member of the West Fargo Police Department so they can fulfill their career goals, whether it’s with the West Fargo Police Department or another agency," Otterness said.

The West Fargo Police Department currently has 67 officer positions and 13 civilian staff. In 2020, the West Fargo officers responded to more than 30,100 calls for service. While the lone community service officer, Annie Burthold, responded to 1,037 calls. Of those calls, she handled 443 parking complaints and 295 animal calls. She also assisted with 87 vehicle unlocks along with accidents, found property, missing persons and public assistance.

For anyone interested in applying for the new part-time positions, visit westfargond.gov.

The closing date for the first position is Friday, June 18.