Pa. police use new tools to recruit officers

October 22, 2007|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Revamped recruitment practices have paid off for a pair of southern Franklin County municipal police departments, officials said.

The Washington Township Police Department recently offered to put someone on its payroll while sending him or her to the training academy. At least 11 people applied for the job.

A sign-on bonus of up to $5,000 awaited applicants for officers with the Greencastle Police Department. Five people passed the Civil Service exam and were sent to the borough council for hiring consideration there.

"We advertised several months ago and didn't get any applications, so that's when the council went with the sign-on bonus," Greencastle Mayor Robert Eberly said.


Washington Township Police Chief Barry Keller called recruitment a nationwide problem.

In August, Keller asked the township supervisors for permission to hire someone and pay wages while that person trained in an academy.

Keller said he was looking for a responsible, levelheaded person who could think on his or her feet.

The last few officers hired were not local, but were probably drawn to the growing area because of a department of young colleagues, Keller said.

"It's not a big city. It's still rural enough for some of these guys," he said.

In Greencastle, though, recruits tend to have ties to the community, Eberly said.

"Most of them have roots here, at least them or their wife," Eberly said. Some have left the area and returned, he said.

The same is true in the Borough of Waynesboro, according to Richard Starliper, the mayor who oversees an authorized complement of 20 full-time officers there.

"We have never, to the best of my knowledge, gone outside the immediate area," he said.

Last week, the Waynesboro Borough Council launched the process to fill a full-time vacancy in the department. The borough initially pays for academy training, which can be reimbursed, Starliper said.

However, a new hire is not on the payroll, he said.

Starliper acknowledged that Waynesboro can be a step to a bigger department with higher salaries.

"A lot of them are maybe looking for a start, a small community," he said.

Higher salaries and better benefits offered by big-city departments might be the reason Chambersburg Police Department has difficulties forming a diverse force, said Chambersburg Police Chief Michael T. DeFrank.

"The only challenge we have is attracting minorities," DeFrank said. "We have a difficult time attracting black candidates, Hispanic candidates and female candidates."

The majority of the borough's new recruits still come from the Chambersburg area, but the department has also hired officers from other areas, such as Shippensburg, Pa., Harrisburg, Pa., and Hagerstown, DeFrank said. At one time, the department visited area colleges and universities to recruit prospective officers, but DeFrank said newspaper advertising has been a more effective tool.

Eberly said he hopes to get a year or two of employment from new hires.

"I hope we're not recruiting again for a long time," he said.

Greencastle advertises for applicants with Act 120 certification rather than sending them to the training academy, according to Eberly.

"The last one we had got halfway through the academy and decided he didn't want to be a police officer," he said.

Staff writer Don Aines contributed to this story.

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