SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - The number of new law enforcement recruits is down in some cities more than 90 percent, according to an ABC report. The reasons are several. Low pay is one, but recent news events haven't helped either. There's the tarnished image from events in Ferguson and Baltimore.
And then, there's the danger. South Mississippi has been introduced to it up close and personal.
In November 2014, Gulfport police trainee Dolton Bradley was shot in the abdomen during a traffic stop gone wrong. He survived, and he's still on the force.
"It definitely is a game changer when you go through it and you see firsthand, hey, this can really happen. I might not go home tonight," Bradley said in an exclusive interview with WLOX earlier this year. "It changes and everybody else will see it. Your fellow officers see it, and it's something they learn from too."
In May, rookie Hattiesburg Officer Liquori Tate was killed along with his partner, Benjamin Deen. Tate was only 25 years old.
The growing danger against law enforcement has given the Mississippi Highway Patrol an extra incentive in recruitment and training. The MHP just finished its first academy since 2011, and it was hard. Out of 125 applicants, only 48 graduated.
"The reason it's so tough is if we lose a fistfight, we die," said Cpl. Benjamin Seibert. "If they give up in the academy, they'll give up on the side of the highway."
Seibert said it is more dangerous, so part of the training includes a day of watching videos of officers getting killed in the line of duty.
"That's when it sinks in," Seibert said. "Yes, it looks like fun. I get to drive cars fast. I get to go out here and wear this uniform. I get to be a Mississippi State Trooper with all the history behind it. But then, you learn there's people who want to kill us just because we wear this badge. You have to learn that you can just start your shift and just go to work and not come home."
Most rookie troopers are young and single, but some have families. Young families just now thinking about their lives together are forced to think about the possibilities of lives cut short.
Jeremiah Beard, 25, of Ocean Springs, entered the academy in November 2014 and just finished the Field Training Office program earlier this month. As a trooper, he's now on his own, but he has plenty of support at home with his wife, Mariah, and his son, Jeremiah Beard II.
"I noticed that a lot of people in society say what needs to be done versus doing what they are saying what needs to be done," Jeremiah said. "So, I never wanted to be one of those people. When I actually decided to get into it, my wife, we just found out my wife was pregnant, and I told her, 'I'm not going to raise my son and him to follow your dreams, and I not follow mine.'"
For Jeremiah, a musician and youth pastor at his father's church in Moss Point, this was a dream job, but he had other pressures while in the academy. His wife gave birth during his training, and it didn't help that communications with family were not allowed.
"I did have help," Mariah said. "But it's nothing like your husband being right there with you while you are going through one of the biggest moments of your life. I just think as far as just the whole entire process and even him getting on his own now, only thing we can do is pray."
Jeremiah said the murder of the Hattiesburg officers was difficult.
"I'm like, man, somebody just lost their son. Somebody just lost their husband. Somebody just lost a loved one, and they lost them doing what I do every day," Jeremiah said.
When his son stopped breathing one day, he almost called it quits.
"That was one of those breaking points that I had, and I had to just overcome it," Jeremiah said. "When I talked to her on the phone, she was the real trooper, because I talked to her on the phone and said, 'Hey, it's too much going on and I'm thinking about coming home.' She was like, 'Nope, nope, he's fine. They got him stable. You stay there and you do what you've got to do.'"