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Dayton hiring dozens of officers in uncertain environment

The Dayton Police Department is hiring about 48 officers during what many officials contend is a challenging time to wear the badge.

Recruitment efforts are underway, and the police department through the middle of last week had received 679 applications from interested candidates. The deadline to apply is Dec. 30.

Police officers today face increased public scrutiny and mistrust in many cities across the country following a series of highly publicized police shootings.

But this is an opportunity for people who are concerned about the relationship police have with the community to join the force and do their part to mend and improve ties, said Dayton City Commissioner Joey Williams.

“For those who have those concerns, there is another way to get involved and be helpful — come join the police department,” Williams said.

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The Dayton Police Department started accepting jobs applications on Oct. 24 and will continue to collect them through the end of next month. Police recruiters would like to receive about 1,500 to 2,000 applications.

The department is hiring in part because it is losing personnel to retirements and attrition, city officials said.

As of Aug. 31, the police department had 351 sworn officers, which is down from 418 at the end of 2008, according to city documents.

But also, Dayton voters on Nov. 8 approved an income tax hike that will allow the city to hire about 20 additional police officers over the next eight years.

Recently, the police department learned it has been awarded more than $1.8 million in federal funds to help hire 15 officers.

The funding will pay for about 40 percent of the officers’ salaries over a three-year period. The police department must retain those officers for at least 12 months once the grant period expires.

“These additional officers allow us to further community-policing efforts,” said police Chief Richard Biehl.

Recruiters say a career with the police department offers good pay, benefits, bonus incentives, pension options and diversity of assignments.

Police recruits are paid to attend the police academy and are guaranteed a job upon graduating. New officers earn $25.92 per hour (nearly $54,000 annually), and can earn about $31.54 per hour ($65,600 annually) in less than seven years.

But police departments across the nation have struggled to attract and retain officers in recent years partly because of growing tension between law enforcement and the communities they serve.

Violence against police officers and the fatal shootings of mostly unarmed black people by police have put many communities on edge.

In October, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley told this news organization that the police department was losing far more officers to attrition than expected.

Building a good relationship between police and the community requires training and opportunities for police to interact and talk with the public in friendly settings, but the police department needs more staffing to achieve those goals, Whaley said.

“What we’re finding is that this is a not-fun time to be a police officer,” she said. “They are not staying with the job — they are just walking.”

Williams urged people who are worried about police behavior to consider joining the force to help foster the kind of relationship with the community they wish to see.

“For those who have concerns, why not come and join, why not be a part of it?” said Williams, echoing comments made over the summer by Dallas’ police chief to Black Lives Matter protesters in the wake of a sniper attack on police.

Williams also has stressed the importance of attracting recruits with diverse backgrounds and ethnicities.

Earlier this year, Williams told the 105th Dayton police recruit graduating class that there has likely never been a more challenging time to be a police officer.

Overall, Dayton residents gave police very positive scores for respectfulness and other measures of satisfaction and indicated they believe officers enforce laws consistently regardless of race, according to a recent citywide survey.

But black residents were more than twice as likely as whites to say police were somewhat or very disrespectful and disagree that laws are enforced consistently. Nearly one-half of all respondents said someone in their household had contact with a Dayton police officer in the past year.

To assist with the talent search, the department has turned to social media — including Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, — to promote the job openings and encourage the public to attend police open houses and other meet-and-greet events, including Coffee with a Cop.

The city also has purchased radio advertisements and billboard spaces on the sides of Greater Dayton RTA buses. The social media campaign reached about 22,000 people and attracted about 1,800 post clicks.

“We are hiring and we’re looking for the next generation of Dayton police officers,” said Dayton police Sgt. Jason Hall. “And the message is employment with the city of Dayton and the Dayton Police Department is a rewarding and fulfilling career.”

The police department is looking for people between the ages of 20 and 35 who have a high school diploma or general equivalency diploma. Applicants must pass an extensive background check and medical and physical fitness screenings, as well as a polygraph examination.

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