The police department will be trying to recruit locally in an attempt to have its staff reflect the town’s demographics.
The town council approved the department’s request to create a police recruit position. The position allows the department to go out and recruit people in the community and pay them as they go through Basic Law Enforcement Training (BLET).
The department will most likely target minorities and women.
Police chief Brandon Zuidema said the department usually hires people who have graduated the training on their own with their own money. Community colleges including Wake Tech and Johnston County Community College offer the course.
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But the majority of those who take the classes and pay for them, are white males, Zuidema said.
According to department statistics, 77 percent of the police department’s 65-person staff are white males. Nine percent are white females, 4.6 percent are black males, 4.6 are Hispanic, 3 percent are black females and 1.5 percent other.
50 out of 65 officers on the Garner’s Police Department’s staff are white males. Five are black, three are Hispanic and nine are white women.
That position would be paid below a regular staffed-positioned until that person finishes BLET. Zuidema said the starting salary will be around $24,000 for the position. After the recruit finishes the training, he or she will be upgraded to a full-time officer, where they would earn $38,000, which is the standard starting salary for the position.
The hire would be made six months in advance of an expected vacancy in the department becoming available. The position won’t cost any extra money. One police seargent is retiring in April and the two-month vacancy will save the department some money. The department will also shift some of the funds in its 2015-16 budget around to pay for the position.
Zuidema said the department will recruit in the community through its Police Athletic Activities League, Garner Magnet High and area colleges.
“We’re basically telling them, ‘hey I have a position for you, which you get benefits and the promise of a job when they complete BLET,” Zuidema said. “Because there are some folks that go to BLET and don’t even get a job.”
Council members are voicing approval for Zuidema’s plan.
“I think it is commendable that you are looking at a different approach,” Mayor Pro-tem Ken Marshburn said at the last town council meeting. “I think your attempt to diversify your recruiting resource is a good one. So I certainly support it.”
This is part of a much broader effort to continue strengthen the relationship between Garner and its community in wake of events in New York, North Charleston, Charlotte, Ferguson, Mo., Baltimore, where unarmed black men were killed by police. The killings in the latter two cities eventually led to violent clashes between the community and the police.
The police department is also looking to have community conversations, within the next couple of months, to ensure there is an understanding between the community and the police.
“There are advantages to making sure your police department is representative of the community and making sure you have a good relationship with them,” Zuidema said. “It’s our responsibility to make sure that is the case.”