LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - The City of Little Rock has announced a plan to address the Little Rock's shortage of police officers. It starts with changes to the recruiting process.
For years, the city has touted a rigorous police recruiting process. One that may have been a little too rigorous, or, at least that's what Mayor Mark Stodola is saying.
Currently, there 70 openings at the Little Rock Police Department.
"It's unacceptable," Stodola said. "The charge that I and the City Board gave to our City Manager and Police Chief is to get it fixed."
Last year, Little Rock announced they'd be bringing in the International Association of Chiefs of Police and an Human Resources analytics firm to find out why about 500 people apply for each police academy, but only about 18 to 30 make it all the way through.
"There's physical fitness, there's a written exam, there's a marksmanship issue, then, of course, there's the oral interview. A lot of people were making it through three of those, and for some reason were not passing on the oral interview," he explained.
Stodola said many who were turned away because of that oral interview became officers somewhere else. The solution, he suggested, is that each portion of the test should be weighted more evenly.
He said they are looking at the polygraph review as well as the question of, "Have you ever committed a certain kind of infraction or crime?"
But, more specifically, they want to look at the question that asked if you've ever smoked marijuana. Just
"People do a few crazy things in high school and college and if they've learned from the experience, that's really one of the most important things," Stodola said.
So how exactly does the city plan to get people in to the hiring process in the first place?
Stodola said the answer to that is simple; incentives. New officers will receive a $5,000 signing bonus. That bonus would apply to accredited officers from other departments as well.
"For people who want to live in Little Rock, we have another bonus, either $5,000 if you purchase a house, or $2,500 if you rent in Little Rock. Trying to make sure our officers in Little Rock are a reflection of the community," the mayor said.
In the past, members of the City Board have bounced around the idea of a "residency requirement."
The Mayor hopes the incentive will ease that concern and will also open up the opportunity for neighborhoods to get their "community police" back, when more positions are filled.