Just weeks after the Boston Police Department was red-faced over its mishandling of a wholly non-threatening alleged bomb scare, the city’s police department is back in the news.
This time, however, the department’s news has less to do with a cartoon program and more to do with a reality program. The reality, of course, is what is plaguing police departments around the country: how to deal with more openings than applicants.
That’s why the Boston Police Department just launched a sophisticated $100,000 recruiting campaign to add at least 50 officers this year.
The average starting salary for a first-year police officer is nearly $50,000, compared to the national average salary of $32,000 to $34,000, according to The Boston Globe.
So while the salary isn’t bad, per se, two stumbling blocks currently limit the number of qualified applicants:
- Boston administers a civil service exam. The number of test takers interested in joining the Boston police has dropped from 5,430 in 1997 to 1,345 the last time the civil service exam was offered in 2005.
- Boston requires that all officers live in the city. As is the case in other cities, the ordinance in Boston limits who can be hired. The ordinance requires the department to hire all applicants who have lived in the city for at least a year and who pass the test before considering better-qualified and higher-scoring outsiders.
The department now has 2,160 officers, plus 80 recruits in the Police Academy.
Another academy class starts in June, and the city is counting on its new marketing slogan — “Many Jobs, One Career, Boston’s Future” — to attract more diverse candidates, multilingual candidates, and a higher-caliber pool of candidates.
The ad campaign will continue through April 2, and the last day to sign up for the next state civil service exam is May 19.
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Until the results from the May exam become available, the department says it will hire recruits from outside the city, giving preference to military veterans and those who speak other languages.
Boston is not alone in its recruiting efforts. From Philadelphia to Seattle, officials cite increased competition from the private sector and federal law enforcement, military tours of duty, and retiring baby boomers.
Back in Boston, in fact, more than 10% of current officers have been called up for military service.
Some police departments have resorted to offering lucrative signing bonuses to fill these slots. Police officers in Dallas recently flew to Detroit in order to find qualified candidates. The department, hoping to lure as many as 250 applicants back to Texas, is offering a $10,000 signing bonus for all new recruits who successfully complete the training process (including an application, personal history statement, civil service examination, pre-polygraph interview, and agility test).
Similar programs are taking place in other cities, including Houston and New Orleans.