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Local police try new tactics to drive recruitment

Sean I. Mills
Staff writer
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Posted 7/16/22

For the past several years, the reputation of police officers has taken a hit, leading to fewer and fewer applicants looking to protect and serve.

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Local police try new tactics to drive recruitment


For the past several years, the reputation of police officers has taken a hit, leading to fewer and fewer applicants looking to protect and serve. So local law enforcement agencies are trying some new tactics to find recruits.

The application deadline for many police officer civil service tests is in mid-August, with the tests themselves scheduled for Sept. 17. Tests are available for police departments in Utica, Rome, Oneida and elsewhere. The deadline for the Oneida County Sheriff’s Office applications is July 29.

“I think numbers are down globally, nationwide and statewide. The workforce of America is down,” said Utica Police spokesperson Sgt. Michael Curley.

“We have a very robust recruitment campaign this year, and we’re trying to reverse that.”

Many agency officials cite the murder of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis in May 2020 as the start of a downward opinion of law enforcement across the United States. Numerous protests were held throughout the country following Floyd’s death, with calls for “defend the police” becoming a rallying cry.

Such criticisms continue to this day, especially in the wake of the police response to the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas in late May.

Those events “certainly hurt police recruitment and retention,” Curley admitted. But he said that won’t stop departments from looking for the best candidates.

“We want the most qualified candidates that we possibly can. Certainly the most diverse candidates would be beneficial,” he stated.

To help this year, the Utica Police Department used some of the city’s American Rescue Plan Act funds to hire a recruitment and diversity officer, who has led the charge in a new series of videos to drive new applicants. Curley said the department had used radio advertisements in the past, but noted that’s not a great way to reach young people these days.

The ads have high production values and feature interviews with current police officers. They will be airing throughout the summer, including online. Curley said the ad campaign has been “well received” so far.

The Oneida County Sheriff’s Office is, likewise, looking into producing some video advertisements this summer.

“We’ve got a few different ideas in the works,” said Sgt. Curtis Morgan, supervisor of the Community Affairs Unit.

“We’re trying to get together with our members, new and old” to record some video footage.

Morgan acknowledged that “it can be challenging” to reach new generations of young people, and noted that the Sheriff’s Office has a strong social media presence.

“Across the country, the state, the numbers are down and we’re doing our best here to find the most men and women and the best ones to do the job,” Morgan said. The Sheriff’s Office participates in multiple job and career fairs, and uses their connections with local schools to reach out to new graduates.

“If they don’t have a plan for what they want to do, we can offer them a career or something for a few years until they can get on their feet,” Morgan stated.

Many tests have an age limit — often 19-years-of-age — and a residency requirement. Applicants must also be high school graduates, or have an equivalent diploma.

Starting salary:

• Rome Police: $48,172 annually.

• Utica Police: $49,288 annually.

• Oneida Police: $29.06 per hour, after academy training.

• Oneida County Sheriff’s Office: $48,512.

“Partially, I think, society in general is having a hard time finding workers,” said Oneida Police Chief John Little, who noted that his department is in the “extremely rare” position of being fully staffed at the moment — though the test will still be held in September.

“It’s a hard job and there are a lot of things in the past few years that have been against the profession. Not a lot of people know how to get into law enforcement, and civil service is the first step.”

For more information on the civil service process, and to get an application, contact your local civil service office or visit their website. Different agencies have different application deadlines, with most applications due in mid-August.


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