Local police departments explore new recruiting efforts, look to Latino communities to pick up staff

Prince George’s County Police tells FOX 5 they’re planning to recruit in Puerto Rico as departments across expand their reach trying to compete for the best recruits amid staffing shortages and rising crime.

Across the country, police departments have been reporting serious staffing shortages in the wake of the pandemic and of course, the summer of 2020, which saw the beginnings of the "Defund the Police" movement.

FOX 5 is told recruiters with the Prince George’s County Police Department are not only planning a recruiting campaign on the island of Puerto Rico but are also planning to visit the Puerto Rican Day Parade taking place in Philadelphia later this month.

But officials tell FOX 5 they’re not just targeting that community. They’re reaching out to the entire Latino population, seeking out top Spanish-speaking, bilingual candidates. Radio commercials for Prince George’s County Police have already been recorded in Spanish.

It’s an effort to recruit and also serve the county’s growing Spanish-speaking population. 

FOX 5 asked Prince George’s leaders why someone would want to move from the island of Puerto Rico to Maryland.   

"Well, it’s beautiful. The Fall air today — I mean, Puerto Rico it’s probably 90 degrees — you know nice, chill in the air today," PGPD Captain Nicholas Collins joked. 

"Prince George’s County is truly a great place to work. I’m proud that I’ve worked here for 17 years – it’s been a completely awesome experience from start to finish. We have so much great to offer, FedEx Field behind us. We have so many different benefits top in the state if not in the country in my opinion," he continued.

Departments across the region are changing recruitment tactics to pick up their ranks again. FOX 5 spoke with Fairfax County’s leaders, Montgomery, and D.C. to see what they’re all doing. 

D.C. police have been recruiting on New York City subways and bumped their hiring bonus to $25,000. Montgomery County has a $20,000 bonus with take-home vehicle and property tax credits, among other incentives. 

Fairfax County has a hiring bonus along with incentives for foreign language and prior military experience. Fairfax County’s police chief highlighted some recent success on social media just last week, saying they had 30 new participants start their 10-week academy. 

"I’ll tell you, we are seeing well-educated among our new recruits. Over 50% of this class has Bachelor's degrees and some of them have degrees up and above beyond that, so 67% of this current class has a four-year degree," said Fairfax County Police Deputy Chief Brooke Wright.

Most agency leaders say overall, recruiting is up.

Base salaries are obviously a key factor as well. Here’s a look at some across the area without added incentives:

Department heads told FOX 5 they’re working to build diverse, multilingual forces. And Arlington County’s Chief Public Defender says it’s the younger generation he believes who are more empathetic to issues like mental health crises and therefore can be an asset to departments going forward. 

When it comes to recruiting those younger generations, PGPD highlights that they understand the importance placed on personal time and avoiding burnout, so they don’t have forced overtime like other departments but say you can still make significant overtime money elsewhere, like working events at FedEx Field events.

"Policing has definitely changed a lot. It’s evolving, I think it’s growing. I think it’s more community involved, so I’m pretty excited about joining and being a part of this because I know I’m going to be the change that is already happening," PGPD recruit Jermya Moody told FOX 5.  

PGPD says they’re about 300 to 350 short of getting to 1786.

Right now, most jurisdictions say their recruiting numbers are up with both younger recruits and people choosing police as a second career.