Follow CBSDFW.COM: Facebook | Twitter

DALLAS (CBS11) – Earning a spot at the Dallas Police Academy took 21-year-old Shiloh Sams a year.

“I want to serve my community and help people,” she said.

The department postponed two classes in order to find enough qualified candidates.

Nationwide law enforcement agencies have struggled to fill their ranks.

“Many people are essentially looking at law enforcement job and saying, ‘Why would I want to be a police officer and have lower wages than another job, be able to risk my life and the life of other people and be subject to the litigation that the job incurs?” said Tarleton University criminology professor Alex Del Carmen.

In the last week, though, Dallas Police bucked that trend.

“Get off that protest line and put an application in,” Chief David Brown urged those calling for change.

That call to action led to hundreds of job inquiries.

“We’ve been receiving e-mails, phone calls, Twitter, Facebook. ‘Hey, I heard your chief’s speech, pretty strong. I want to join the police department. Where can I apply?’” said Sgt. George Aranda, who oversees recruiting.

He’s in charge of finding candidates capable and willing to take on the job of an officer.

“Being able to look at the devil and say, ‘I’m coming. You can keep shooting, but I’m coming,” he said.

Sams says the recent ambush on officers has left her even more committed.

“There’s the feeling of helplessness, sitting at home, watching it on the news and not being able to help. It makes me want to fight even harder to get through the academy.”

For her parents, who drove from Tulsa to help her move, the tragedy has made it that much harder to let her go.

“It doesn’t get any more real than what’s happened in the last few days,” said Todd Sams. “I mean, this is my daughter. This is what she chose to do. I hope people can respect law enforcement, more than they have. Because these people have families,” said Julie Sams.

(©2016 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)