SUFFOLK COUNTY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – One of the largest and highest paid police departments in the nation is looking for more than a few good men and women.

And as CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, you’d think they would be flooded with applications, however that’s not the case.

“Everyone in my family has always told me I have that attitude to become a cop,” Megan Dantre said.

Dantre, a college student, will sign up to take the Suffolk Police exam.

But with the April 1 deadline approaching, the pool of would-be cops is dramatically smaller than past years. Five thousand have signed up, 25,000 fewer than the last time Suffolk offered the exam. So what’s behind the drop off?

“We think there is a drop because County Executive Bellone negotiated a better contract for the taxpayers,” Assistant Deputy County Executive Tim Sini said.

Suffolk lawmakers say fewer people may be in it for the money alone.

Once considered the brass ring in law enforcement, with high pay and low crime, Suffolk County—like others—has had to reign in spending. Rookie officers now start at only $42,000 and it takes more than a decade to reach six figures, Gusoff reported. Also, add in the ever-rising cost of living.

“With the new pay scale, people are reconsidering coming over from other municipalities. In NYPD I don’t think we are going to get that seasoned veteran that we used to get,” Suffolk PBA Vice President Lou Tutone said.

Legislator Tom Cilmi blames an anti-cop sentiment nationwide in the wake of Ferguson and the chokehold death of Eric Garner.

“It’s got to make somebody think twice about becoming a police officer,” Cilmi said.

“What they’re seeing on the news, maybe parents are discouraging children from taking that test,” Tutone said.

The exam is given in June for a $100 fee.

“I think this is a wonderful career. It’s worth throwing your hat into the ring, it’s worth the effort,” Sgt. Richard McKillop said.

Scoring well on the exam doesn’t guarantee a place on the Suffolk police force. Only 168 officers have been hired in the last four years.

Suffolk officials say they are looking for quality, not quantity and are active recruiting on college campuses and from the military.

Applications may be up to 35 years old.