Thursday, April 13, 2000

LAPD recruiting Cincinnati officers

BY Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The Los Angeles Police Department is so strapped for new officers that it's sending recruiters to Cincinnati on a new kind of manhunt.

        Veteran officers from the nation's third-largest department will administer a basic test this month. They'll be extolling the plusses of the LAPD too — starting salary of at least $41,000 a year, relocation bonuses, free higher education. And the beach.

        “It's a world of experience out here,” said Officer Joe Torres, a five-year veteran. “There are 250 different jobs you can do with us. People are coming from all over the country.”

        The Cincinnati stop April 29 is among dozens LAPD officers have made this year as part of a new on-the-road approach to recruiting. The strategy started about four months ago to combat a retirement rate of 20 to 40 officers every month and to help fill approximately 750 new slots created by a federal grant. The department now boasts 9,700 officers, making it trail only New York City and Chicago in size.

        “Just after the Vietnam War, a lot of people started working here,” Officer Torres said. “So now they've got 25 or more years on, so they're retiring. We have to constantly replace all those people.”

        He said the officer loss rate is a national problem and has nothing to do with image problems suffered by the LAPD after incidents like the 1991 Rodney King beating, accusations of incompetence in the O.J. Simpson case and current corruption investigations.

        Departments everywhere are feeling the same pinch, which is exacerbated now because of the country's strong economy. More jobs pay better than they used to, and even fast-food restaurants offer good money and benefits, leaving fewer people to be attracted to various kinds of work. Particularly, Officer Torres said, jobs that mean danger.

        In Cincinnati, 3,700 people applied to be police officers seven years ago when Cincinnati FOP President Keith Fangman took the exam. Eight months ago, the number of people taking that test sunk to 900, he said.

        But a summer recruit class was canceled as part of budget cuts after City Manager John Shirey said the police division does not need more officers.


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