FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — The Fort Wayne Police Department will have a full class of new recruits, thanks to a new app and a new recruitment team of 12 local officers.
Utilizing the app, Interview Now, the department jumped from under 500 applicants two years ago to the high 600s, Chief Steve Reed said during an interview Friday.
The effort began when a few officers came to the chief with the idea of an in-house recruiting team last year. An easy way to show interest is to text JOINFWPD to 260 233 9850.
At the end of January, a full class of 40 recruits will be seated, although a few are expected to drop out because of the grueling aspect of the 22-week plus training at the Public Safety Academy, Reed said.
Another 15 to 20 officers currently serving in other departments are awaiting the departmental nod to join FWPD, Reed said. Those officers are called lateral transfers.
The department is currently budgeted for 485 officers, up from the previous 480 approved by the city. Reed hopes to be able to get to 500 in the future.
When someone shows interest in coming on to the department, Officer Doug Weaver initially responds. The applicant is then linked with one of 12 officers who mentors that individual through the process, Reed said. The hiring process typically lasts six months, according to department leaflet.
The officers are primarily from local and regional agencies, but some come from far away. In the last lateral training class, recruits transferred from Sacramento and New York City.
An officer from Seattle recently showed interest in transferring to FWPD. Selling points are the community and its booming development, the FWPD and its facilities, a favorable housing market and the increased pay, Reed said.
Starting salary for officers this year is more than $66,000 annually and next year will increase to $69,450 because of the pay increases approved by Mayor Tom Henry and the city council.
Starting this year, officers will see a 5% increase for the next three years. Reed expects the department to be in the top 20 for state salaries, if not the top 10, at the end of the third year, he said.
Another selling point is the specialized units that include the Emergency Services Team, often referred to as SWAT, Explosive Ordnance Device (bomb squad), Vice & Narcotics, Gang & Violent Crimes, Street Crimes, K-9, Hostage Negotiations and the Air Support Unit (drones.)
Requirements to become a police officer include a high school degree and be 21. The FWPD recruiting team is recruiting college students, particularly criminal justice majors, and military veterans, Weaver said.
Good officers will have good people skills, too, and be able to talk to citizens, Weaver said.