City’s police hoping to find officers online

Elected officials in Little Rock will vote today on whether to provide funds for a police recruitment website, something officials say would help in the Police Department’s efforts to fill dozens of officer vacancies.

If the funding is approved, the police recruitment website would be independent of the city’s, officials said. The website would likely feature job announcements, summaries of the hiring process and testimonials from officers, said Sgt. Van Thomas, who works in the department’s Training Division.

“We are just finding another way to reach a broader audience,” he said, adding that if the funding is approved, the website would also outline the different opportunities in the police force.

Randy Foshee, director of the city’s Information Technology Department, said the website ordinance before the Board of Directors would modify an existing contract with Aristotle Interactive, which currently hosts and maintains the city’s website.

He said the police recruitment website would cost $8,650, plus taxes, and the 12-month cost for hosting and maintenance on the city’s general website would be $36,970, plus taxes, for a total cost of $45,620.

As of Aug. 23, the city’s Police Department was short 80 sworn officers, causing specialized positions to go unfilled and weakening the department’s community policing efforts, officials say.

According to department data, 51 vacancies are in the city’s three patrol divisions and another 13 vacancies are in the department’s Major Crimes Division, which is responsible for investigating homicides, shootings and other violent crimes.

The vacancies have been persistent within the department — officials reported about 58 vacancies in the summer of 2016 and about 70 openings last winter.

Capt. Heath Helton, who until recently oversaw the Training Division, said the recommendation for a stand-alone police recruitment website was listed in a report from the International Chiefs of Police Association and a Virginia-based organization. The report reviewed the department’s recruitment efforts and hiring process.

“If your website doesn’t grab their eyes within the first five seconds, a lot of times they’re going to move on to something else,” Helton said. “Giving us the ability to make our website and our digital footprint more attractive will help people learn more about the agency. I think it adds a level of transparency as well.”

Police departments across the U.S. now have recruitment websites aimed at attracting new candidates, including agencies in Denver, Houston, Memphis, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Portland, Ore., and San Antonio.

Many of the websites have recruitment videos, along with information on the requirements for becoming a police officer with the department. In particular, New Orleans’ recruitment website had an interactive tool that determines an officer’s estimated salary based on his rank, education and shift, among other factors.

“We want to stay competitive,” said Thomas, who works in Little Rock Police Department’s Training Division.

Although Little Rock police still attend job fairs, Thomas said the events do not attract the same number of people compared to the past. Now, he said, potential recruits go online to see opportunities to become a police officer.

Thomas said the department knows that it needs to engage people on social media and online, especially when trying to reach candidates from younger generations.

Last month, the city posted a request for proposals on a marketing campaign that is expected to include advertisements on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, along with billboard, television and print advertisements.

“From an agency standpoint,” Helton said, “it’s important for us to get on board with that because that’s how many people communicate.”

Metro on 09/05/2017

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