Friday, November 1, 2002

Police: Ads entice more black women to recruit exam

By Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Cincinnati police recruiters think their first-ever prime-time TV ad campaign helped boost the number of people who took Saturday's recruit exam - particularly black women.

About 120 African-American women took the test - triple the 40 who showed up for the last exam in September. Black women were the demographic most targeted by the $275,000 ad package, which touted police work as a way to make a difference in your community.

"Black females were the group we were most concerned about,'' said Sgt. Gary Conner, the department's new recruiting supervisor. "We very much want to increase that number.''

Overall, 1,144 people took the test - that's almost 34 percent more than the 756 who took it last month before the ads. It's also more than the tests given in 2001 (954 took that) and in 2000 (934). With the two tests, recruiters now have at least 1,900 candidates from which to choose the next recruit class.

Police Chief Tom Streicher said he was pleased with the results: "It worked out well for us.''

Sgt. Conner is trying to set up a third test, for November in Memphis. It's the first year Cincinnati offered more than one test, and the first time the department gave a test elsewhere.

Those changes are necessary, academy director Ted Schoch said, to be more candidate-friendly in an environment where people are less interested than they were decades ago in long-term, pension-focused careers. Recruiters also have been concerned that the Justice Department investigation and federal lawsuit over police discrimination against black people would lead to a decline in candidates.

Cincinnati's 1,020-member force is about 30 percent African-American and about 20 percent female now. A federal consent decree dictates each recruit class be 34 percent black and 23 percent female. The department meets those criteria now, Sgt. Conner said, but would always like more candidates.

Cincinnati's 331,000 population is 43 percent African-American.

To retain more and better candidates, the department also is considering changes in the next step of the recruit process: the initial physical fitness test. It has traditionally been given the week of Thanksgiving, which can be a bad time for people intending to go out of town, Sgt. Conner said.

It is not uncommon, he said, for half of the potential recruits to fall off the list because they do not show up for the test. He's hoping to fix that with a makeup time, possibly in January.


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