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Diversity recruitment falters as APD struggles drawing applicants

first_imgThe Police Department has struggled in recent years to hit its target goal of graduating 28 officers per academy. The incoming class has just 18 recruits. Photo by Daysha Eaton, KSKA – Anchorage.As city leaders work to increase the size of the Anchorage Police Department, they’re also beginning efforts to boost diversity within the force. But it’s off to a lukewarm start, bumping up to a familiar problem: Enticing enough new recruits to fill an Academy.Download AudioLast Thursday, staff from the Anchorage Police Department Employee’s Association tried something new.APDEA set up an hour on Facebook where they had an officer rapidly responding to questions about recruiting.“We want to cast a broad net,” explained Dani Myren, communications manager for the union. The Facebook event was an experiment aiming to reach more would-be applicants.“It’s kind of similar to a radio call-in show, except that it’s using social media as a platform,” Myren added.But the event drew questions 12 questions from just four men. It highlights a problem the Department faces with recruitment: Even when city leaders decide to pay for the police academies that replenish and grow the force, they can’t always get enough people through the process.There are 18 individuals slated to enter the Academy starting at the end of November. That’s well below the Department’s goal of graduating 28 per Academy. Over the last three years, different academies have graduated between 16 and 23 officers, according to numbers provided by APD.Sergeant Kristie Kunder supervises APD’s Recruiting Unit, which uses a multi-pronged strategy for advertising open academies: Radio and bus ads, mailing inserts, booths at large public events both in and out of state. The goal is getting as many people to apply as possible.But they don’t just want quantity, they need quality.“We just don’t have enough qualified applicants,” Kunder said. “The standards are pretty high for an officer–as they should be.”It’s also a long: Four to six months.“It is a tough process,” Kunder explained. “Only two to three percent of people actually make it all the way through the process to be hired.”That is a lower success rate than admissions to Harvard. And it’s part of the reason APD looks out of state so often to find candidates, in California where they target Marines transitioning out of the military, or New York state where the wait list for the NYPD’s academy is two years, according to Kunder.That importation strategy doesn’t totally fit with a growing public appetite for a more diverse police force.During a recent Public Safety Committee, Assembly Chair Dick Traini pressed the chief of police over the makeup of the class set to start in APD’s next academy.“We’ve got a lot of islanders here,” Traini said, referring to residents from across the Pacific Islands. “I want to make sure we reach out to the islanders.”Traini is hardly alone.As part of it’s emphasis on a larger staff capable of a more coherent community policing model, the transition team examining public safety for the Berkowitz Administration identified diversity within APD’s recruitment phase as a priority during the next three years. As the Administration adds extra academies to rebuild the size of the police force, those diversity efforts are only just beginning.“We are aware that the community’s interest in having a police force that looks and feels like the diversity of Anchorage is there,” said George Martinez, Special Assistant to the mayor handling, among many things, diversity.There’s no centralized authority over recruiting efforts–neither the Administration or APD is in charge of changing the existing strategy.Martinez said that right now there is an emphasis on building partnerships and identifying barriers.Members of the administration are informally asking community councils to push young people towards applying to APD, and the Administration is using its own social media accounts to cross-promote open police academies. Martinez said the Mayor’s Office has a keen interest in collaborating with APD, not foisting an internal agenda on the Department, which had a troubled relationship with the last Administration.They are trying to expand who in Anchorage–and from which parts of town–is asked to apply to become an officer.“Three out of the top five high schools for diversity (in the country) are here in the city of Anchorage,” Martinez said, “and I think we all get a kind of get a sense of what a diverse city looks like, and of what a diverse police force could look like.”APD is now accepting applications through February for the Police Academy beginning in May.last_img read more