A shortfall of police officers has led to stepped-up recruitment efforts by agencies statewide, with job fairs providing fertile ground for many of those efforts.
Michigan State Police is staffing two Kent County job fairs through next week, including one hosted by Grand Valley State University on Feb. 22 at DeVos Place Convention Center.
“We’re going to get a little bit more aggressive with our recruiting efforts,’’ said Trooper Christopher Gerard, who is assigned to the Rockford post. “We’re going to think outside the box and become a little bit creative.’’
The Grand Rapids Police Department is also hitting job fairs. Staff attended a criminal justice career fair held Monday, Feb. 12 at Michigan State University. The department will be represented at upcoming fairs at Ferris State University and Western Michigan University as well as the Feb. 22 event at DeVos Place, Grand Rapids Police Sgt. Cathy Williams said.
“We are out there, getting the message out that Grand Rapids is a great place to work,’’ Williams said. “We’ve got our next two weeks planned in terms of recruiting.’’
A shortfall in staffing is being felt in Michigan and across the country due, in part, to the availability of other jobs. The national unemployment rate for January was 4.1 percent. Other factors, including pay, toughened standards for new recruits and negative publicity have made it difficult for departments to fill positions.
Michigan State Police is still trying to recover from a hiring freeze spurred by a sluggish state economy several years ago.
“We’re trying to build our ranks from those gap years and we’ve also got a lot of retirements going on,’’ Gerard said.
The agency is hoping to add 300 troopers this year, he said. There are 149 candidates currently enrolled in the state police recruitment school that got underway last month. Another recruitment school is planned for this summer, he said.
According to the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards, there were 18,750 officers in Michigan at the end of January, a drop of nearly 16½ percent from 2001.
The city of Grand Rapids has seen its ranks drop nearly 20 percent over a similar period. The city ended 2017 with 295 sworn officers, compared with 366 sworn officers in 2002.