GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids Police Department intern Andrew Smith is the face of the future for the department.
“It’s all about service and bettering the community. That’s something I want to be able to do to in my career,” Smith, a junior at Grand Valley State University, said.
He hopes to attend Grand Valley’s Police Academy as a GRPD recruit after he graduates.
But building a law enforcement agency for the future has become a difficult task.
It used to be easier — put out the help wanted sign and the recruits lined up.
But times have changed, and so has the recruitment efforts.
On Wednesday, GRPD hosted an open house at the West Michigan Works! office on Straight North West in Grand Rapids.
Potential applicants got a chance to meet one-on-one with recruiters to help answer questions about the job and selection process.
Many GRPD cruisers also serve as recruitment billboards, featuring magnetic signs on the tailgate.
“This magnet is just one of the examples of the creative recruitment ways or initiatives that we’ve started,” said GRPD Sgt. Catherine Williams.
Those initiatives include electronic billboards and radio ads.
The ads tout a program that began in 2016, which pays for the police academy and puts recruits on the city payroll with a starting salary of $45,000 a year.
Its help broadened the field of potential recruits.
“We are looking for someone who has been thinking about being a police officer or always wanted to be a police officer,” Williams said. “This is their dream opportunity to put aside those barriers and make those dreams come true.”
A hiring spree in the 1990s has resulted in many retirements from GRPD in recent years.
One hundred officers have already been hired.
“We’re expecting to hire another 100 officers in the next five years. And that’s an across the state, across the nation issue,” Williams said.
But it’s not just competing with other agencies.
There’s the negative view of law enforcement that has turned some potential candidates away from the job.
That’s where efforts like Wednesday’s open house helps.
“This face-to-face, one-on one-hiring. The recruitment process really is about breaking down those barriers, dispelling the myths, telling them the truth and letting them see firsthand,” Williams said.
The deadline to apply to become a GRPD officer is Sept. 6.