Omaha's police chief is launching the latest police recruitment effort today, the first time he'll make his mark on the kind of officers he wants serving the city.
Chief Todd Schmaderer says he knows what he's looking for in this upcoming recruit class, the first he'll see through from start to finish since taking over last August.
For the first time, the department is using Facebook and Twitter — under “JoinOPD” — to help boost recruitment efforts and reach a broader audience.
Schmaderer wants the next class to be made up of different ages, educational backgrounds, races, sexes and ethnicities. He'd also like to see bilingual applicants who speak Sudanese and Arabic.
In many cases, life experience, including military experience, is as important as educational experience, the chief said.
“Our diverse Police Department should be reflective of our community,” Schmaderer told The World-Herald. “What I am looking for is well-rounded, mature, responsible, trustworthy people.”
The class is scheduled to begin in October. The department averages about one class per year, mainly because the application process takes so long.
The department currently has 788 sworn officers, 16 fewer than its authorized strength. At least five officers plan to retire this year.
Between 1,500 and 2,000 people are expected to apply. Only about 20 will make the cut.
Schmaderer said that number could grow if more officers resign or retire.
The vetting process is intense. Applicants must undergo interviews, written tests, physical fitness tests, background checks, polygraph tests and psychiatric evaluations.
“You want the best possible candidates you can find, and you want to eliminate any possible issues or personality traits that could lead to problems” on the job, said Sgt. John Wells, president of the Omaha police union. “It is serious.”
Once the 20 or so are selected, the recruits will undergo 24 weeks of classroom instruction, followed by 15 weeks of field training in which they patrol with veteran officers.
Recruits earn a salary of $41,538 while attending the police academy, the city's Human Resources Department said. After graduation, their starting salary is $49,358.
The Police Department, which assigns officers to recruit across the city, has faced delayed recruit classes because of city budget issues.
Delaying such classes is a way for public safety agencies to free up money they otherwise would spend on salaries and benefits.
Last year, training for more than two dozen officers began in August instead of May to save as much as $200,000. Officers from that class didn't hit the streets until this year.
Schmaderer said he doesn't anticipate a class delay this time around. He said that in a few cases, classes are delayed to give the department more time to complete the vetting process.
The City of Omaha will be accepting applications through April 30. For more information on becoming an Omaha police officer, visit JoinOPD.com.
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