FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Applying to be a Fort Wayne police officer is as easy as scanning a QR code.
Scanned from either a brochure, the FWPD’s website, or from an officer’s cell phone or text, using the app can start a process with a recruitment staff of 12 officers.
The app, created through a company called Interview Now, started two years ago and has been so successful that the department is at full employment or 500 officers, according to Doug Weaver, FWPD’s full time recruiting officer.
Actually, make that 499, but that number fluctuates with retirements and resignations.
Seven lateral officers are currently in training, and a new recruit class is scheduled to begin this year.
Last year’s recruit class was bigger than most at 36.
Recruitment takes place at many community events and offers ride-alongs, a very popular recruiting effort.
While other departments are hurting for officers and applicants, particularly after COVID-19 and the widespread protests in 2020, the FWPD has had 367 applicants apply and of that, 187 took the written test.
“However, we’ve got just over 1,600 people who still receive active communications from FWPD on the Interview Now app,” Webb said. “It’s still a struggle to get qualified people to apply to the department which is why we are using all these various ways to entice people to apply.”
Now, active recruiting occurs in the three-month application period between March and May. After that, there’s a six-month testing process. But during the year, candidates can be preparing to apply and stay engaged with the department.
“We’re doing very well from a staffing point and Interview Now has helped us do that because it increases our ability to engage with candidates. Everybody today uses their smart phones and texting is so predominant and the app itself allows us that ability to text with candidates immediately when they text in to this service, Weaver said.
The traditional methods through “snail mail” and email took too long and are too cumbersome to recruit younger members of society, officials said.
Weaver credited Fort Wayne Police Chief Steve Reed with initiating more aggressive efforts to recruit new officers after it became clear the road was getting more difficult.
“Departments across the country are suffering from retention and recruitments issues so we tried to get ahead of this,” Weaver said Wednesday during an interview with WANE 15 and FWPD’s spokesman, Sgt. Jeremy Webb.
Through the app, applicants can answer preliminary questions like age, education, citizenship and driver’s license status.
FWPD sees a lot of people from Fort Wayne and northern Indiana because Fort Wayne is within driving distance, Weaver said. But lateral officers come from everywhere, including a recent recruit from Tulsa, Oklahoma.
“One of our mottoes is the grass is greener over here. We have the support of the city. Our command staff is very supportive of the officers here. Those are things that lateral officers like to hear,” Weaver said.
The trails system, parks, Rivergreenway, and the downtown stadium make Fort Wayne an attractive city to potential recruits. Other benefits including pay and time off. The department does follow-up surveys to find out why people are applying or decided to be recruited by FWPD.
A big plus is the departmental professionalism, “how we display ourselves,” Weaver said.
FWPD also got hip and sponsored ad campaigns through Rockbot TV in three Planet Fitness gyms – Fort Wayne and Columbia City were two. The app will also allow communication with potential recruits as they work on their fitness to pass the physical test, Weaver said.
Soon, a new campaign “My City. My Department. My Campaign” will be unveiled. Local officials, businesses and citizens who want to show their support for police can get their own Interview Now QR code and use it for referrals, Weaver said. There’s no cost, according to a brochure, and it allows the individual to request a personal QR code for referrals.