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Omaha Police Department says it's pulling out all the stops this recruitment season

Posted at 6:34 PM, Jan 23, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-23 19:34:43-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — The Omaha Police Department says its recruiting strategy this time around looks different than it has for the last five to seven years.

"We're trying to branch out as much as possible ... pull out all the different stops," said Omaha Police spokesperson, Lt. Neal Bonnaci.

That includes TV and radio. Perhaps most notably during the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs last weekend.

"Just trying to reach as many people as we possibly can, to peak their interest in law enforcement," Bonacci said.

The recruiting campaign ends on Feb. 9. OPD is hoping for a class of 50-60 people.

The larger-than-normal push comes as law enforcement agencies nationwide face a staffing challenge. Since 2020, nationwide, there's been fewer applicants and more resignations among law enforcement according to University of Nebraska Omaha Criminology Professor Jessie Huff. Data she provided showed agencies in the Midwest saw a 6.6% drop in staffing between January 2020 and 2022. Nationwide, staffing dropped 3.5%.

There are many reasons why, Huff said, some similar to the struggles of any profession such as baby boomers reaching retirement.

"There has definitely been a change in the image of policing," Huff said. "It seems like there's a lot of media attention to police misconduct issues ... We've seen officers whose names are now infamous. And that's something that would naturally cause hesitancy for these types of jobs."

She's seen "revitalized recruitment efforts." The message is changing. Old ads portrayed policing emphasize facing danger and "good versus bad guys."

"I think now we're seeing kind of a shift to more the service orientation of policing," she said. "Which has always been very huge in the actual profession itself, but we didn't necessarily see so much in the recruitment ads. I do think that that's something that's changing."

Bonacci's pitch is that law enforcement is a rewarding profession, and that OPD has a wide variety of opportunities.

"Law enforcement can kind of get a bad rap," he said. "That's just a very small percentage of law enforcement. And that's just like any profession ... Every day is different. We have tons and tons of opportunities ... You get to meet a lot of different people and ultimately you get to help people. And that's the most important thing. There's nothing more rewarding than helping someone and we get to do that every single day we come to work."

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