By Bill Shields

MANSFIELD (CBS) – Help is wanted at police departments across Massachusetts, but chiefs say applicants are hard to find, especially during turbulent times. In Attleboro, six vacancies on the force have gone unfilled.

“We certainly want to hire good, quality candidates,” said Attleboro Police Chief Kyle Heagney. “But what is going on nationally is affecting us here in the Commonwealth.”

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In the last several years, a series of questionable police shootings have led to sometimes violent protests and perhaps an eroding of public trust in local police.

Mansfield Police Chief Ron Sellon said some critics don’t actually know how officers interact with the public.

“The criticism that is going on nationally and quite frankly the criticism that is coming at us from the State House at times from people that don’t know how they do their job, that they don’t know how they interact, that they make a judgment based upon what they think as opposed to what they know, can at times not be helpful,” said Chief Sellon.

With police protests now occupying the public consciousness, these police chiefs are having a hard time filling vacant jobs.

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“When you’re being judged, and criticized of being a police officer, based on what happens thousands and thousands of miles away across the country,” Heagney said, “it’s becoming increasingly difficult to attract new recruits.”

Both police chiefs say the state’s antiquated Civil Service system keeps them from hiring the most qualified candidates.

“This candidate isn’t as good as this candidate and then Civil Service steps in and says ‘Well we are going to tell you to hire that person anyway,’” Sellon said.

With the public demanding change in police departments, these chiefs have a suggestion.

“If you want change in policing, please come join us,” Heagney said. “Change the profession from within.”

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Heagney and Sellon said residents in their communities want to see two basic changes in policing: A reduction in the level of force and increased service.

Bill Shields