Boosting RanksBy ANTHONY WARREN,
JPD hoping new recruit class will increase numbers
The Jackson Police Department (JPD) is short about 100 officers, but a new recruit class and new recruitment efforts promise to help boost those numbers.
A new class is expected to begin at the Jackson Police Training Academy on June 24.
This will be the first class at the academy in three years, and department leaders are hoping at least 50 recruits will be a part of it. Last week, JPD had 346 sworn officers, more than 100 short of the 450 allowed for in JPD’s 2017-18 budget.
Typically, the department is budgeted for between 450 and 550 officers.
However, in recent years JPD has struggled to reach those numbers. Jackson ended fiscal year 2016 with 440 officers, 2015 with 389 officers and 2014 with 412 officers, according to the city’s 2017 audit.
The academy had been temporarily closed because of city budget constraints, but funds were found in this year’s budget for two classes, Cmdr. Herman Horton, director of training, said.
“We sent (recruits) to the state previously because we had a serious issue with the budget. We wanted to get officers on the street, so we developed a partnership with the state to make that happen,” he said.
After the academy was shut down, recruits were sent to MLEOTA, the Mississippi Law Enforcement Officers’ Training Academy, in Pearl.
During this year’s budget hearings, the former police administration suggested to cut costs, trainees would not spend the night at the academy, but would rather report each morning.
However, that proposal was nixed, with the department wanting to use evening time to provide additional instruction, Horton said.
“We thought it would be more beneficial.”
While JPD has reopened the training academy, it has also stepped up recruiting efforts.
The department has put up signs across the city advertising vacancies.
Additionally, JPD is providing recruitment information on the city’s official Web site and on the department’s social media pages.
Efforts have apparently paid off.
About 400 applicants applied to be part of the upcoming training class, a number that has been whittled down to about 100, Horton said.
“Naturally that number will go down based on steps in the process. When they apply, they take a written exam, do a 50 percent physical fitness test and get a notice of a psychological evaluation,” he said. “From there it moves to the next step.
“The last (step) is an interview with the chief to determine if the person is a good fit.”
The application process itself takes two to two and a half months.
Some candidates are weeded out because of physical or psychological issues. For physical fitness, candidates must complete a two-minute pushup drill, an agility run and 1.5-mile run.
“All of this is individually tested and based on age,” Horton said. “If you’re 25, you’ll probably have to do 35 pushups to reach 50 percent.”
On the psychological side, potential recruits must complete a personality inventory and then meet with a psychologist.
Applicants also must pass a background check and drug test.
Some candidates drop out during the process because they’ve found employment elsewhere, Horton said.
The academy itself is 12 week boot camp-style program.
Jackson isn’t the only city facing police shortages.
According to a 2017 NBC News report, cities across the country are reporting difficulties.
Reasons include the strong economy, with more higher-paying job opportunities available. In addition, some young adults are seeking a better “work-life balance,” and are turned off by policing.
Darrel Stephens, executive director of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, told NBC that it’s “not an 8-5 with weekends off. The lifestyle is difficult for a lot of people.”
He went on to say that millennials are looking “work-life balance.” Officers, though work nights, weekends and major holidays.
“Obviously, some people choose this profession, get into it and realize it’s not for them,” said Sgt. Roderick Holmes, JPD spokesman. “We have people who are eligible for retirement and chose to (take it) and we have individuals who seek other employment.”
Holmes said salary also could be an issue.
“People look at law enforcement and look at the salary and say it may not be enough money to put (their lives) on the line,” he said.
New recruits earn $25,900 a year during and right out of the academy. After six months, pay is raised to $26,375; and after a year, salaries are increased to around $31,000.
By comparison, in Mobile, officers in Mobile, Al, earn $31,679 out of the academy and are eligible for a $5,000 increase in pay after six months, according to that city’s Web site.
In Birmingham, starting pay is $37,232 for individuals with a high school diploma or equivalency and $41,038 for those with a four-year college degree.
Shreveport officers start out at $26,148 during the academy, an amount that is increased to $33,000 after graduation.
Raises for officers were requested, but not included in the current year’s budget.
Holmes, though, said people don’t become police officers for the money. “It’s a calling, not a job,” he said. “We get into it because we want and need to help people.”