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  • Police Departments having a tough time recruiting applicants

    Police Forces, Their Ranks Thin, Offer Bonuses, Bounties and More
    By TIMOTHY EGAN
    SEATTLE, Dec. 26 - Among the depleted ranks of police departments throughout the country, it has come to this: desperate want ads offering signing bonuses to new recruits, and cops paying other cops to find new cops.

    It seems nobody wants to be a police officer anymore, officials say. As a result, departments are taking a page from recruiters in sports and the corporate world. Here in King County, the most populous in the Pacific Northwest, the Sheriff's Office is trying a kind of bounty hunting: any deputy who can bring in someone who eventually becomes an officer will get a bonus of 40 hours of extra vacation time, worth up to $1,300.

    "This job used to be more enticing, and we didn't have to do a lot of marketing," said Sheriff's Deputy Jessica Cline, the chief recruiter for the King County force. "Over time, it's become less attractive. We needed to do something."

    But it is a competitive world out there among police recruiters. San Diego County, for instance, has already gone King County one better. "Put a star in your future - now offering a signing bonus of up to $5,000," goes the Web advertisement for the San Diego County Sheriff's Department.

    In a generation's time, the job of an American police officer, previously among the most sought-after by people with little college background, has become one that in many communities now goes begging. Experts find that the life has little appeal among young people, and those who might be attracted to it are frequently lured instead by aggressive counteroffers from the military. The problem is compounded by better pay at entry-level jobs in the private sector, where employment opportunities have recently brightened.

    The resulting shortage of new officers, says Elaine Deck, who tracks recruitment matters for the International Association of Chiefs of Police, is the top concern among issues facing law enforcement across the country. Nearly every police department at a recent statewide meeting in California reported being at least 10 percent short of the officers it needed. The Los Angeles Police Department has about 700 officers fewer than its full complement of 10,000, says Cmdr. Kenny Garner, who oversees recruiting there.

    "When I started out in the 1970's, there were lines around the block of people waiting to take the police test, and I had to sleep overnight in an elementary school to get my place," Commander Garner said. "It's not an easy sell anymore."

    Similarly, the test to join King County's ranks now draws only a small fraction of the 3,000 who used to take it.

    In the face of developments like those, police agencies have tried a variety of enticements.

    "Walk-ins accepted for immediate testing!" says an advertisement from the Los Angeles police force, which at one point sent recruiters to Florida to troll for prospective officers among college students lying on the beach during spring break.

    There, Fort Lauderdale's come-on for police academy prospects says "no maximum age," along with "up to five weeks' vacation."

    The New York Police Department recently placed advertisements in newspapers in and around Buffalo, part of a broad sweep to find recruits in the economically depressed upstate region.

    Many cities have raised salaries well above the rate of inflation and are offering benefits like discount mortgages. Lexington, Ky., will give new officers up to $7,400 for a down payment on a home.

    The Los Angeles police are offering $500 to any city employee who can bring in a police recruit who makes it through the academy, and another $500 if the prospect becomes a sworn officer. But the bonus, along with recruit inducements that include a retirement payment of $250,000 after 20 years in addition to a pension, has yet to turn the tide.

    "We're trying to cook up some other things so we can get back in the game," Commander Garner said, in a bow to the competition.

    The pay in most departments remains competitive with that in other jobs that do not necessarily require a college degree. A rookie officer in Los Angeles will start at $51,000 a year - certainly better than the starting salary for many teachers, of whom a degree is demanded. Police jobs also typically come with comfortable vacation, health care and retirement packages.

    Further, most height and weight restrictions have been thrown out at major police departments, after lawsuits challenging them on grounds of gender and race. As for strength and stamina, a recruit in King County need be able to do only 30 situps in a minute and run a mile and a half in less than 14 minutes 31 seconds. "You don't have to be Superman," said Sheriff's Deputy Kurt Lange, a 14-year veteran of King County, where the vacation bonus has led deputies to start recruiting on their own, looking for friends, relatives or just casual acquaintances who might want to wear a badge.

    But whatever the attractions to the job, a powerful constraint is working against them, experts say.

    "The people we are now trying to recruit look at life and jobs in a very different way than baby boomers do," said Ms. Deck, of the police chiefs association. "People used to live to work. This younger generation works to live. Working late, working weekends, that's not attractive. They want to make money and retire early."

    Then there is the competition from the armed services. At some military bases, commanders will not even allow police recruiters on the grounds, for fear that they will steal troops who might otherwise re-enlist, said Lt. Mike Barletta of the San Diego County Sheriff's Department.

    King County has been sending recruiters to distant cities, where they scour job fairs, employment offices and even other police departments to find new people to wear the sheriff's uniform.

    "We went to Houston, made a presentation after their roll call, spent eight days in the city, and at the end of it all we got was only one new officer out of it - and he didn't last," said Detective Robert Burrows, who does recruitment screening at the King County Sheriff's Office.

    What proved to be a bidding war of sorts between King County and San Diego County broke out this year when the sheriff's office here bought radio advertisements and sent recruiters south. The selling point was that houses are cheaper in the Pacific Northwest than in Southern California.

    "We sell the lifestyle, and the cost of living, less crime, the mountains," said Deputy Cline, the chief recruiter for King County. "And in turn, we're looking for diversity, for someone with good people skills, someone who can go from a missing-child call to a bar fight."

    San Diego countered by describing the Seattle area as a damp, cold outpost far from the beaches of Southern California.

    "We say, 'Would you rather live in Washington State, where it's gloomy and gray, or live here with the sunshine and beaches?' " Lieutenant Barletta said. "Our biggest obstacle is housing prices. Young people can't afford to buy a home here."

    To help with housing costs, San Diego started a Cop Next Door program, arranging with certain lenders to offer discount home loans to officers willing to live in less desirable neighborhoods. But the program has yet to show much promise, Lieutenant Barletta said.

    "We've got all the sunshine anyone could want," he said, "but not enough officers. It's been bad for some time, but it's getting worse."

  • #2
    This differs from city to city. Here where I live in NC, one department can have a back log of applicants, while the others next to them are 6 or 7 officers short. There are certain things that attract applicants, better pay and more importantly it seems, location. It is amazing how literally the difference a matter of miles makes. Many people arent willing to move or travel long distances. For example, in northern Mecklenburg county, just north of Charlotte, is Huntersville. Very nice city that is always looking for officers. The pay is good too, 30,000 starting off. But Cornelius and Davidson just north of Huntersville hasnt had a opening in atleast a year.
    John 15:13 - Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

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    • #3
      Out in my neck of the woods there are lots of people who want to be police officers - and then you read their application......

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      • #4
        About a month ago I was talking with a NJ police officer and he said his department is having difficulty finding qualified candidates because of past drug use.

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        • #5
          I'm calling major BS.

          There are PLENTY of qualified applicants that are eagerly waiting to start a career, however so many agencies these days are so concerned with hiring strictly minorities that the non-minorities never get a chance. So many of the minority applicants are washing out during the process, and rather than move on to the NEXT PERSON IN LINE, they move on to the next MINORITY so they can meet some BS quota.

          Bottom line...its still just like old times. It's all about who you know, except now, if you're black, brown, yellow, or have a vagina, you're golden, no matter how big a FU you might be.

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          • #6
            My prediction is that within 10 yrs the majority of state POST boards will drop the US citizenship requirement for LE jobs to attract more applicants. I also believe US depts will start recruiting from overseas, as has been done in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. If they can't hire US citizens for police officer jobs, that opens it up for foreigners to get US residency through employer sponsorship.
            It is not the critic who counts...

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            • #7
              I wish it was easier! I live in colorado, and am trying to get POST cert. Its hard to find a agency that will send you.. hard to get employed! might move out of state

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Striphe
                I wish it was easier! I live in colorado, and am trying to get POST cert. Its hard to find a agency that will send you.. hard to get employed! might move out of state
                same thing down here in florida...hopefully i hear good news in about 3 weeks...otherwise i'm putting myself thru the academy...money will be tight but you gotta do what you gotta do...

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by LawEnfWB
                  About a month ago I was talking with a NJ police officer and he said his department is having difficulty finding qualified candidates because of past drug use.
                  I can't believe that this is true. Being a police officer is one of the best jobs in NJ and there are a ton of people who want the job. The problem is likely that most PD's require you to be a resident before you take the exam, which destroys the applicant pool right off the bat.

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                  • #10
                    I think another reason they are having such a hard time recruiting is the wait time from application submission to actually working your 1st day.

                    What other job can take over a year to be hired?

                    IMO, LE really could do the entire process in 1 month, they just choose not to.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by gomets11
                      I think another reason they are having such a hard time recruiting is the wait time from application submission to actually working your 1st day.

                      What other job can take over a year to be hired?

                      IMO, LE really could do the entire process in 1 month, they just choose not to.
                      I think that statement is very true. It takes a long time to get hired, there is no other profession that takes months to get hired, or have so many hoops to jump through. When I got out of the military last January, I attended the academy on my own, from Feb to June. Then I applied to a few agencies and was hired at the end of August.

                      Some agencies are faster than others, but generally in my experience, you have atleast a 2 and half to 3 month wait if you are already certified. Charlotte or the Highway Patrol can take up to a year. There is never any guarantee you will be selected after putting all that time and effort into getting hired. Candidates should know this, but still that wait can be long and if another offer comes up, some people dont have the luxury of waiting.

                      As far as being hired in a month I dont know about that. Ive been told that before " we want to have these positions filled in a month " In reality the police departments may want that, but they have to wait on getting paper work back and results. A lot of agencies in NC send people to LESI in Greensboro to see a certain psychological Dr. Ive waited for him to send to send my results back for 3 weeks.
                      John 15:13 - Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Striphe
                        I wish it was easier! I live in colorado, and am trying to get POST cert. Its hard to find a agency that will send you.. hard to get employed! might move out of state
                        There are agencies who will hire you and send you to the Academy. However, you're going to have to do a couple years in the jail first. Douglas and Summit Counties are two that I know from personal experience do that.

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                        • #13
                          I totally agree that it is just too much of a process to become an officer. And for the most part, you do now need some sort of degree. So you spend all the time getting a degree, just so you can go test with five or six departments. And then you have to pass through an academy. Sounds like fun. I got lucky and got hired on my first test years ago and lateralled into a better department. But I've seen the process be very frustrating for people who I know were qualified. I think states like california need to look more into hooking up laterals from other states. If somebody made it through some other states academy and has worked successfully as an officer than you should probly be able to send them to a law class and send em out with an FTO. California and some other states want you to complete the POSt and all that. Also they need to look into making it a little easier on the laterals from far away. I had looked into Cali (from Illinois) a few years ago and just decided I couldn't afford all the trips it would take to get hired. I think that these places should realize that although anyone can be an officer, very few can be a good officer. And if you have a chance to get one that has been successfull at it for a few years, then you should go out of your way to get them. Look how easy it is for RN's (nurses) to get jobs. They'll pay for there travel to interview and give them a big old bonus. There's no reason that bigger departments can't get qualified decent officers. I am from a rather big department right now, but I know some small town guys that would do well and probably jump at an opportunity to go bigger. In alotta cases they just stay where they are because the laterall process is either too complicated, or not benificial. Oh, also a thing I ran into with Cali was that they would only consider you a laterall if you had already worked in California. How stupid. If you are a cop, then you are a cop and can probably do the job in any state. Well that's my rant. I guess the point is that if you want officers you should start thinking of them as a little more important than a garbage man(who probably make more than us).
                          If life gives you lemons....Go find someone who life gave vodka. {Ron White}

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                          • #14
                            Ahhh, then there is MASSACHUSETTS, where there are a million applicants for one position. The POLICE STATE of Police states, and the pay is not bad either! I hail from there.

                            Departments just for the Boston area:
                            REGULAR BOSTON POLICE
                            Boston Municiple Police "Munie's" or formally know as the Municiple Building Police (soon to be Regular BPD, good for them!)
                            Boston Housing Police or "housing" (soon to be Regular BPD, Good for them!)
                            The MBTA Police or the "T-Cop's" (quasi- state agency)
                            The agencies below are ALSO Deputy Sheriff's in addition to being Special State Police Officers:
                            Boston College Police
                            Boston University Police or "BU cops"
                            Northeastern University Police
                            University of Massachusetts Police or "THE UMASS COPS"
                            and many more.. all great departments, hard job s to get.

                            STATE POLICE AGENCIES;
                            REGULAR STATE POLICE or "THE STATIES"
                            before they were all absorbed in the 90's:
                            Metropolitan District Commission Police, or MDC Cop's or The MET'S (formally MDC Park Rangers) (now State Troopers)
                            RMV: Registry or Motor Vehicles Police or the feared REGISTRY COP'S (now State Troopers) You NEVER WANT TO GET STOPPED BY A REGISTRY COP, EVER!! As State RMV Inspectors they could take your license on the spot.
                            The Capitol Police: Great Job, not to hard, high profile UNTIL!!! They too became Massachusetts State Troopers.


                            And still they have no problems finding PO's, NONE... The surrounding states NH, Maine, RI and MAYBE NYPD (pay is kind of low at 25 and change), seem to all get the overflow applicants..

                            When they give the civil service test in MA, 1000's of people line up to take it. Then they usually do the 3 to 1 hiring. Call 3 applicants for each position. MANY, MANY good people get BYPASSED because of this.

                            Lot's of people try everything to get preference for the hiring process. ACTIVE DUTY tours to become a vet, strange ethnic "changes" on the civil service applications, becoming a "Summer Cop" on the MDC beaches in Hull,MA, CD Auxiliary Police Units(for the few that remain) and so on..

                            Oh and LATERAL's, LOL NO WAYYYYYYYYYYYY!! Although MA Civil Service allows lateral's it usually does not happen from what I have seen. And if your from an out of state dept, ROFL "THE MOB GUY SAYS: "Tony, forget about it...."

                            So for potential applicants, please don't leave the state, get the job and think that your coming back to "get on" because it's kind of rare IMO. It may not help all that much...

                            The thing is, if you want to be a police officer in MA you'll they usually have to get 100 on the Civil Service test, have some hiring preference, a college degree AND be under 32 yrs of age(some depts) to get the job! and STILL you may not get it


                            With all that being said, Massachusetts is a political engine, so if you know someone with clout, I mean REALLY know someone you can get the job you have always wanted!!

                            That is just my uninformed opinion though.
                            Last edited by Recruiting; 12-30-2005, 05:08 PM.

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                            • #15
                              It is just as bad in PA. Just in my county we have 130 municipal police departments with most being relatively small in size (10-15 officers). In addition to the municipal police we have County Housing Authority Police, City Housing Authority Police, County Police, County Sheriff, Port Authority Police (Transit), State Police, and about 20 University Police Departments. Most want you to pay for your own police academy (about $5000) and usually only hire about one or two people at a time. They also utilize the rule of 3 and this just lends itself to hiring whoever they feel like. It is way too hard to get hired when 300 or 400 people apply for 1 job. That is why I started to look out of state.

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