The need for police recruits across the country is growing, as many departments are facing severe shortages. Part of that shortage, experts say, is attributed to the ongoing conflict and turmoil between members of the law enforcement community and general public.
The La Crosse Police Department recently welcomed four new recruits to the department, one of whom is Officer Nathan Lewis.
Lewis, an Onalaska native, went to college in La Crosse and is looking forward to serving and protecting the people of his community.
"You get to work with the people and the community you care about," Officer Lewis said. "These are people you actually want to help out, rather than going across the state to a place where you have to learn different roads, different people, just a different way of going about your business."
As he continues to learn the ropes, interacting with a wide variety of people is becoming one of his favorite parts of the job.
He's also been exposed to a side of the community he didn't know existed.
"The biggest eye-opening experience for me so far is mental health issues and homelessness in the city," he said. "I didn't know that was such a big problem beforehand and the usually go hand-in-hand."
Lewis will continue to work with his Field Training Officer, Ryan Stenslien, for a few months before he's out on his own.
"The FTO really feeds off of your energy on a call," he said. "If it's non-emergent, he'll usually let me handle it and talk with people, but if it's something serious, it becomes a learning opportunity for me as I watch what he does."