Ask most any police chief in the state right now, and you’ll hear the same thing. Finding candidates to hire as police officers has become an ongoing challenge.
So, Cottonwood Heights Police Chief Robby Russo is taking a different, and very proactive approach, to finding new officers—he’s seeking after those who aren’t currently engaged in the profession and may not even be thinking about it.
“The profession isn’t what it used to be in a lot of people’s minds,” he said. “It used to be that an officer could put in 20 years and retire at 50 percent of their salary, with an additional 2 percent for each additional year to a maximum of 70 percent of their salary. But under the retirement system now, that’s been changed to 35 percent after 25 years of service. Obviously, it’s not as lucrative as it once was.”
Russo said that in addition to the pay, public sentiment towards police in general has also changed greatly. All of the recent media attention with regards to officer-involved incidents has cast a negative light on the profession.
So Cottonwood Heights City has posted a job announcement for a full-time police recruit (view the posting online at cottonwoodheights.utah.gov/human_resources.employment). The recruitment is for Non-LEO Certified Applicants only…in other words, someone not currently on the road to becoming a police officer.
“We want to recruit the most educated individuals we can, hire them, pay their way through the academy and training, then have them join the department,” he said. “The academy lasts for 16 weeks and our training for 14 weeks, so we’re offering to make a big investment in them. Essentially, we’re paying for them to get a college education, and then offering them a job right out of the gate once they get trained.”
Russo said the candidate(s) hired through the program will be asked to commit to the city for three years. He said the city’s compensation package for officers is one of the best in the state, so such a commitment shouldn’t be hard for candidates to agree to.
“I think we make it very attractive for our officers to stay with us,” he said. “We’ve only lost one to another police department in the city’s history.”
There are a number of steps in the application process, and the next POST training begins on July 6. All required application steps must be completed well in advance of that.
“It’s been difficult to find qualified candidates through the usual methods we’ve used in the past,” he said. “This gives both potential candidates and us in the department a fresh new way of finding and hiring new officers.”