MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — The Mobile Police Department said they need more officers and are encouraging candidates to sign up for the police academy.

Just last week, 18 new officers graduated from the police academy. But, they’re still understaffed.

Mobile police are currently down 84 officers of a budgeted force of 491.

A new class of police academy recruits is already underway. “Quality over quantity. We have to take the right individuals,” said Tony McCarron, the Public Safety Recruiting Director.

19 recruits are currently taking the 20-week course to become the city’s newest police officers. There are three academies a year with 30 openings for each academy.

“We’re looking for 30 of the most qualified, dedicated men and women who have a servant’s heart, who want to serve this city and want to serve the citizens of this city,” said McCarron.

Across the country, there have been challenges for police departments to hire and retain officers, due to a variety of reasons, including issues with community trust.

“If you’re standing on the sidelines, you’re not going to make a change. You can’t affect change from the sidelines. You have to come to be a part of the team to affect change. What better way to change the stigma of policing than to be out there and be part of it,” said McCarron.

The MPD said there is an issue with retention. But, they’re working to solve it. The police department and the city are working to increase the starting pay for their officers. Now, they’re able to offer those with a high school degree or GED who have graduated from the academy $49,000 a year, and that’s up. A few years ago, the starting pay was $32,000.

“We’re pushing for the day when no police officer has to work a second job to make ends meet,” said McCarron.

The police department said they pay 50% of their recruits’ college tuition and they want the people they hire to move up the ranks.

“I come from a big football family, I use football as an analogy. Coach Saban always said, for those who stay, we’ll be champions. This is the finest police force in the southeast, come join our team. If you stay and you stick to the course we layout, you’ll be successful,” said McCarron.

The police department is actively trying to fill the 30-person academy class that starts Aug. 1.

If you’re interested in applying, you’re encouraged to call or text: 251-554-2298.