ST. LOUIS - The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department wants you on their force.
Police Chief John Hayden said that the department is working with the Ethical Society of Police to help make that change.
“The goal is to fill this gap,” he said Tuesday, “we are 140 officers short, in particular in our minority recruitment, so what we are doing is assisting wherever we can.”
A year ago, Officer Brandin Neil sat exactly where the program’s current students were sitting during one of its evening educational classes at the Urban League downtown.
“It definitely has made me give back to the community and see things in a different sight,” Neil said.
The program gives potential police recruits a glimpse into the life of an officer, teaching them everything from the need for transparency to strengthening community and police relations.
“My biggest goal out there is to reach out to the people and say, ‘Hey we all make mistakes and mess up but there is a better way to reach back and pick somebody up and bring them along the same way that they did me.”
The program is taught by either former law enforcement officers or instructors who have experience teaching at the police academy.
“Most people think this job means you just arrest a bunch of people but that’s a small smidgen of what we do,” said retired Police Sergeant Clarence Hines and current instructor with the ESOP, “this job is about people, it’s about relationships.”
For first time student, Leon King, his participation holds a personal meaning.
“I didn’t grow up in the best of conditions,” King said, “and with police brutality and racism I just felt that it would be good to see some transparency. I think it’s important when it comes to building trust.”
Since its launch in 2015, the program has retained several of its participants.
“I’ve learned to be more patient going through this program, said Tenisha Neal who has been with the program since 2016, “I have learned to be more caring, be more giving and be more open-hearted.”
The 10-week-long program is free to the public.
For more information, log on to E.S.O.P. Recruitment Program.