TPD seeks minority, female recruits to ‘answer the call’Written by Staff Reports | | email@example.com
By Ashley McMahon
Toledo Free Press Staff Writer
Over the past few months, police departments across the country have experienced varying levels of community unrest following the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and others.
These high-profile cases of unarmed black men — or in the case of Rice, a 12-year-old boy — killed by police officers caused backlash in many communities, including New York City, where NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were shot and killed as they sa-t in a marked squad car on Dec. 20, apparently in retaliation for Garner’s death.
In the midst of this ongoing tension, the Toledo Police Department (TPD) remains focused on its goal to recruit those interested in a law enforcement career. Soon, these recruits will have the chance to sit for the civil service exam.
Sgt. Michael Koperski leads the recruiting unit for TPD and is optimistic his team can attract qualified candidates.
One tactic for encouraging new recruits is combating pessimism about police officers.
“I have the opportunity to help people. It could be clearing the scene of a traffic accident so no one else gets hurt. It could be catching a murder suspect,” Koperski said. “We have an opportunity to have a positive impact on people’s lives and that to me is the main reason I wanted to join this career.
“You can’t throw a blanket description on somebody over everybody,” he said. “If you’ve had nothing but bad experiences with police, I can understand that. But have you ever had a bad experience with me personally? Yes, I’m a police officer and a lot of people just see the uniform, but there’s somebody underneath there. There’s somebody inside the uniform that’s more than just a police officer.”
‘Answer the Call’
This year, TPD is using the slogan “Answer the Call.” A primary focus is attracting minority and female recruits, two demographics that typically see low recruitment numbers in Toledo and throughout the country.
“There are various reasons,” Koperski said. “Whether it’s perceived or real, depending on where people live, there tends to be a mistrust between the minority community and its police force. When people mistrust law enforcement, they don’t want to become a police officer.”
Koperski said a lot of the negative responses TPD receives from female candidates revolve around a fear of getting into a physical altercation with someone of larger stature.
“Can it happen? Yes. But we put you through a lot of training and if you learn to take care of yourself and you’re good with speaking to people, a lot of times that will diffuse the situation before it even becomes physical,” he said.
To help recruit minority candidates, TPD teams with the African American Police League to provide support and training.
Sgt. Anita Madison, leader of the minority recruitment program, said it’s important to increase minority presence in the police department. African-Americans make up about 27 percent of Toledo’s population but roughly 14 percent of the TPD.
“We’re trying to have our department, over the course of time, reflect the population in the community,” Madison said.
Of TPD’s 614 officers, 486, or 79 percent, are white; 83, or 13.5 percent, are black; 40, or 6.5 percent, are Hispanic; five, or 1 percent, are listed as “other,” according to TPD public information officer Sgt. Joe Heffernan.
When it comes to the perfect candidate, Koperski said the department looks for “honesty, integrity and people with an ability to think under pressure in stressful situations.
“We want people to be good, solid individuals that represent the police department and the city as best as they possibly can. And we encounter stressful situations a lot, so the ability to think clearly in any of those situations is very important because somebody’s life could be on the line,” he said.
Exam registration opens midnight Jan. 24 and closes 11:59 p.m. Feb. 7. Once candidates register, study materials will become available electronically. Hard copies of the study materials will be available on the 19th floor of One Government Center beginning Jan. 24.
Access to a computer is available at the Scott Park District station, 2301 Nebraska Ave. Assistance sessions take place on 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Jan. 24, 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Jan. 29 and 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Feb. 4.
In order to qualify for the exam, applicants must be between the ages of 20 and 34 years old on Feb. 28, per state law. Applicants must also have a high school diploma or GED certificate and be legally allowed to work in the United States.
The exam will be given at 9 a.m. Feb. 28 at the SeaGate Convention Centre, 401 Jefferson Ave. Exam results are typically released in six to eight weeks.
Applicants who score well on the exam must then pass a background check, psychological tests, a medical test and a physical fitness test, Heffernan said. Those with felonies are disqualified.
“From that pool of candidates, we will take the most qualified,” Heffernan said. “Things like level of education, diversity and military experience can help a candidate once it gets to this stage.”
“We’re excited to offer the exam and hope everyone who has ever given the thought about wanting to be a police officer at least takes this first test,” Koperski said. “If anyone wants to serve others and make a difference in their community, please come out and apply.”
For more information, visit toledopolice.com or call (419) 245-1075.