KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — After years of cutting positions and hiring freezes, local police agencies are hiring again. Among them: the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety.
KDPS Chief Jeff Hadley told 24 Hour News 8 on Tuesday that his department’s 15 new recruits are a very diverse group — and not just in terms of ethnicity and gender. Hadley saidtheir life experiences also sets them apart.
Four African-American males, one African-American female, a man of Middle Eastern descent, two white women and seven white men make up the new recruit class. They range in age from their early 20s to their early 30s. Some came from other careers.
“You have to look at the total package. When we look at hiring an individual, we look at everything,” Hadley said.
Their hiring comes at a time when the scrutiny of law enforcement has never been closer.
“One of our candidates, a young African-American gentleman, who said, ‘You know, you’ve got to be part of the solution,'” Hadley said. “That’s the caliber of young men and woman we’re bringing on to this department in 2015 in the midst of a national climate that you wouldn’t describe as pro-police.”
While some departments struggle to attract minority candidates, KDPS has taken a different approach that helps to increase diversity. It is one of three agencies in the state that pays for the training recruits need to be certified by the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES), as well as firefighter and EMS training.
Picking up the tab on training helps casts a wider net, Hadley said.
“We were able to capture a larger applicant pool and with in that a diverse applicant pool to choose from, said Hadley, who added he hopes KDPS’s in-house training helps better prepare the candidates for the job.
In 2013, Hadley ordered a study on racial profiling by the department. Out of that came a series of policy changes and programs, including classes on implicit bias that essentially teach officers how to avoid making assumptions based on skin color and other factors.
“Some of the recommendations coming out of the president’s 21st Century Task Force on Policing, we either have begun or are doing many of those things,” Hadley said.
KDPS officers handle law enforcement, fire and emergency medical calls, so the training process takes a little longer. The new recruits should be ready for the streets in about a year and a half.
The positions they will fill are not new spots on the force. The hires are being made in anticipation of upcoming retirements.
“These officers will help replenish those that will retire out over the next 18 to 20 months,” Hadley said.