How the police attract recruits when every agency is hiring | Virginia News

By CAITLYN BURCHETT, the pilot from Virginia

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (AP) — Miya Mitchell-Bray decided at the 2020 Social Justice Movement that it was time to be the change she wanted in her community. Donning a Chesapeake Police Department uniform and badge, Mitchell-Bray recently completed her first year patrolling the streets of the city she calls home.

As a 31-year-old black woman, she said current negative public perceptions of the police encouraged her to become an officer.

“With everything going on in law enforcement today, I felt it was time to join the police department and be the change I want to see,” Mitchell-Bray said. .

Police departments across Hampton Roads are facing double-digit staffing shortages after the pandemic has seen many workers reconsider their careers and the social justice movement has put greater scrutiny on law enforcement. order. But Chesapeake is among those who are successfully recruiting new officers.

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Between July 2021 and April 2022, the Chesapeake Police Department hired 41 officers – 37 of whom were new officers and four lateral transfers from neighboring departments. The department’s number of new hires is the second highest in the region after Virginia Beach, which hired 86 officers between July and February.

RECRUITMENT GOES BEYOND COMPENSATION

To help with recruiting, the Chesapeake Police Department implemented a 5% pay raise for all positions in January. New recruits earn $45,213 a year, which rises to $50,326 after an officer’s certification after graduating from the academy.

But Chesapeake’s recruiting success goes beyond salary, according to department spokesman Leo Kosinski.

“The competitive salary has helped to get side transfers lately,” Kosinski said. “However, it’s more about word of mouth of happy officers sharing their experience with others and how the culture of our specific department is different from that of other departments.”

Mitchell-Bray echoed Kosinski, saying she chose Chesapeake because it was one of the only departments in the area that works 8-hour shifts instead of 12-hour shifts and has its own academy.

“It was a big decision for me because I have kids and I’m the primary parent because my husband is an active duty military member,” Mitchell-Bray said.

The process for a new hire to complete the academy and become a certified law enforcement officer takes an average of 4-6 months. The hardest part of recruiting is retaining candidates over that long period, said Dupree Foster, a recruiter for the Chesapeake Police Department.

“We have fewer applicants overall, but we have more applicants looking to pursue careers in law enforcement,” Foster said.

To improve the likelihood of success in the hiring process, Chesapeake Police officers meet with applicants once a week to mentor them and provide mental and physical coaching.

“But we’re not looking to lower our standards just to fill positions,” Foster said. “We need to find people who want to do this for the right reasons, who have a decent background and who can also pass our physical standards.”

Before entering the academy, Mitchell-Bray stayed in touch with a recruiter and her assigned background investigator, who gave her training tips and shared personal experiences with her.

“They provided as many answers as possible about the academy experience,” Mitchell-Bray said. “I took their advice, but you’re never quite ready for the academy of the unknown.”

As of April, Chesapeake had 43 officer vacancies out of 404 authorized sworn positions, leaving the agency about 11% understaffed. By comparison, neighboring Norfolk and Portsmouth police departments are both around 30% below authorized sworn staffing levels.

Chesapeake isn’t the only department to have had some success recruiting new hires in recent months.

The Hampton Police Division halved its vacancies between July 2021 and April 2022, filling 22 of its 44 vacancies. At this time, the division increased the base pay for all ranks. Salaries for new recruits increased from $38,618 to $43,297 and from $45,213 to $48,800 for certified officers.

To reach a wider range of potential new recruits, the city’s police division has partnered with the city’s marketing program to grow its digital footprint, said a spokesperson for Hampton Police, Cape Town. . Ernest Williams.

A spokesperson for Hampton’s marketing team said police division recruiting information is included in the city’s daily email newsletter and is shared on the city’s major social media accounts.

“Generally our reach is wider across the city and affects different people than police accounts,” said Hampton spokesman Robin McCormick.

Recruiters also regularly visit local schools and colleges and give presentations.

“It’s twofold because it improves the perception of police work with young people and we’re simultaneously building a future pool of candidates,” Williams said.

Candidates should consider the type of police work they want to get into and make sure they understand if a specific local police department is best suited, Williams said.

“For example, if a candidate expresses an interest in flying a helicopter or participating in an on-board unit, we will certainly try to encourage him to re-evaluate his direction because HPD does not have his resources, but we will direct him in the right direction if that’s the path they want to take,” Williams said.

Mitchell-Bray said she aspires to become a school resource officer, one of more than two dozen specialized units available with the Chesapeake Department.

As area police departments clamor for candidates, Mitchell-Bray says potential new hires should remember that a job in law enforcement isn’t for everyone.

Responding to calls for service since graduating from the academy in February 2021, Mitchell-Bray has come across some of the same negative perceptions that inspired her to join the department.

“Being a woman of color, I’m told I’m sold or on the wrong side,” she said. “Before, I took it personally, but I had to remind myself why I chose this profession.”

In her first year on the job, Mitchell-Bray said she found the most important quality to have as a law enforcement officer was integrity.

“A career in law enforcement requires a certain amount of love and compassion for others,” she said. “It’s not just about fighting crime. You have to know your neighbors. »

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