CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Charlotte Mecklenburg Police (CMPD) are on a dual mission: fighting increasing crime while at the same time fighting to attract people to join the department.
"Folks still want to be police officers,” said Capt Dave Johnson. “They still want to serve their community and it's just a matter of sorting through those applications and getting the right people in place."
The department says in 2018, they received 3,500 applications. So far this year, they say that only 1,118 people have applied.
But could ongoing recruitment take a hit because of rising crime?
“Well as far as recruiting we don’t – we don’t know who doesn’t apply right so... of course anytime there is a large national controversy that involves law enforcement - that can impact our application numbers,” Capt Johnson said.
“We saw that in ’15, ’16, ’17 with all the national events going on - we saw a dip in applications but fortunately we’ve rebounded from that. Application numbers are up and we encourage anybody that wants to make a difference, that thinks they have what it takes to do this job and they want to serve their community - we invite them to put in an application with us.”
The headlines in Charlotte talk about escalating crime and homicide numbers.
“I can’t recall one person asking about crime statistics before they join the police department” Johnson said.
The department says people are still applying. Does that mean applicants are dedicated to policing?
“Well I don't know that you can really correlate the two. So what it tells me is we're encouraged that folks still want to serve their community," said Johnson. “And they want to make to a difference and they want to do that by being police officers - which we are one of the few entities that are in the neighborhoods everyday working with community members trying to make this place a better place to work, live and play for everybody.”
Police have had posters and ads just about everywhere. The department says this year they'll spend about $130,000 on a recruitment campaign - and they're trying something new.
“Heavy online presence – Facebook. You’ll see posting on Facebook. We have content on Spotify, internet radio,” said Johnson. “We know a lot of, especially the younger generation, that’s how they listen to their music these days. So we want to have an impact in that area so that’s what we’re spending our money in addition to the all the traditional recruiting events that we do - college visits and visiting military bases, job fairs. So we haven’t abandoned any of that but we’re picking up in the area of online advertising and hopefully we’ll have some benefits.”
Johnson added, “We want to target a demographic that we think will be around for a while – they’re fresh out of college, they’re motivated, they’re educated, maybe they’re fresh out of the military but we want young folks and folks with a little more seasoning on them too. We know that it take all kinds to make the community a better place we really want to target folks that have the calling first and foremost.”
CMPD says the department has a shortage of 180 officers.
“Mostly retirements. Some are leaving for a variety of reasons – anything you can imagine but we’re competing with the private sector – not only for recruits but for people that are already police officers,” said Capt Johnson. “We’re kinda holding the line right now as far as attrition goes. If we can keep up with attrition the next year or so then we’ll call that a victory.”