ST. LOUIS, Mo. – The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department is looking for a few good men and women and they’ve launched a massive recruitment campaign to find them.
Police Chief John Hayden says he’s down over 150 officers and filling those positions is his number one priority.
Chief Hayden hopes to do that through a campaign called Be The Change. It’s a comprehensive media campaign running now through Feb. 28. It’s aimed at recruiting candidates from across the region who want to “be the change they want to see” in the police department.
With the recent change to the residency rule for city officers, Chief Hayden is optimistic.
“It means hope as far as I’m concerned,” he said. “We have struggled with being 157 officers or so short over a period of a year.
“I want access to folks that live in Jennings, Florissant, and U City, just like the county does, so the residency issue was a big issue I believe.”
You’ll see ads on television, print, radio, and social media with the goal of attracting more diversity to the department. Sgt. Christy Allen, who is in charge of recruiting, says the department hopes to diversify its officer pool.
“Well, this is a male-dominated field, so we’re looking for females,” she said. “We are looking for people who can relate to the people in our communities. St. Louis is a melting pot.”
The ads get personal. You’ll see testimonials and stories from current officers, which Allen says is an important part of the campaign.
“Police officers are spouses, husbands and wives, and we have children and we have those hurdles too, and we have feelings,” she said. “We want to come home every day and every night. But we put this uniform on every day.”
Once the positions are filled, Chief Hayden says, “We believe it would address response time, visibility, and actually making the streets safer.”
The entire campaign is paid for by the St. Louis Police Foundation.
“This will be ongoing. We’re going to do this media blitz for three weeks but we will continue to invest and continue to raise money,” said Michelle Bagwell, president and executive director of the St. Louis Police Foundation. The foundation raises money through three fundraising campaigns, private donors, corporate foundations and grants.
“I think this recruiting effort and getting more police officers in the city police department benefits the officers that are currently here, it benefits the community, it benefits us all and we are excited to be a part of it,” Bagwell said.
Chief Hayden says this time next year he would love to see the 157 officer deficit closed and have a much stronger handle on the violent crime in the city.