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Will Dayton mass shooting, tornadoes inspire more police recruits?

Signs were posted all over the city thanking Dayton police after the Aug. 4 mass shooting in the Oregon District. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF
Signs were posted all over the city thanking Dayton police after the Aug. 4 mass shooting in the Oregon District. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

The Dayton Police Department’s recruitment efforts got off to a slow start this month, but officials say they wouldn’t be surprised to see an increase in applications after a series of tragedies this spring and summer.

The police department experienced a strong outpouring of support and goodwill for how it responded to multiple large-scale events and emergencies, including the hate group rally, the Memorial Day tornadoes and the Oregon District mass shooting.

Lt. Col. Matt Carper, the department’s deputy director and assistant police chief, said those positive feelings and appreciation for officers’ actions could translate into increased interest in joining the force.

“I think it will have a positive effect on recruiting,” he said. “I think we’ve seen that nationally before with major incidents that draw people to serve.”

MORE: Wanted: A few good cops in Dayton

The Dayton Police Department started accepting applications for the police academy on Oct. 21. The deadline to apply is Dec. 16.

Within the first two days, the police department received 81 applications, which is significantly fewer than during past recruiting periods. .

Within the first 48 hours in past rounds, the city received 119 applications in 2018; 172 in 2017 and 297 in 2016, department data show.

But the police department did not do any pre-advertising for this recruitment period, except for a notice posted on social media, police officials said.

Also, officials say, unemployment is lower than during past recruiting efforts, which suggests there’s a smaller pool of people looking for work. The police department hopes to receive more than 1,000 applications.

Last year, the department fell significantly short of that goal when it received only 669 applications — down 42 percent from the 2016 round, this newspaper reported.

MORE: Dayton hiring dozens of officers in uncertain environment

In 2018, some police leaders and experts said careers in law enforcement seemed to be less attractive because of increased scrutiny and criticism of police officers and a challenging work environment.

The Dayton Police Department has had a challenging year because of multiple critical incidents, but the community largely has responded with gratitude and appreciation for how officers helped in the crises.

All across the city, property owners and businesses hung signs saying “Thank you Dayton Police” after the deadly Aug. 4 mass shooting in the Oregon District.

Police officers, and other city of Dayton first-responders, were widely praised for engaging and killing the gunman and helping treat and aid the injured and traumatized.

The Dayton Police Department’s response to the shooting earned accolades from people across the country and globe, including President Trump and national lawmakers.

MORE: After double-digit drops, Dayton crime rates rise

Major incidents often motivate and inspire people to help, to serve, to be part of something bigger than themselves, Carper said.

“Time will tell, and we’re just getting started on this round,” Carper said. “But I wouldn’t be surprised to see an increase.”

The recruiting process starts with applications. Candidates then go through a preliminary physical fitness test and take a written civil service exam.

Applicants who score high enough on the exams go through a background investigation, a polygraph exam, a physical fitness assessment and a psychological and medical examination.

The academy class next year tentatively has 18 spots, but there could be more if there is higher-than-projected levels of attrition in the department, Carper said.