The Worcester, Massachusetts, Police Department is grappling with a significant decline in the number of individuals aspiring to become police officers, mirroring the nationwide recruitment crisis afflicting the law enforcement profession.
Worcester Police Sergeant Angel Miranda, who is in charge of recruitment for the department, noted the drastic shift in recruitment numbers over the years.
“Recruiting has taken a turn,” Miranda said. “When I took the test 28 years ago, 10,000 people were taking the test. Now we’ve seen those numbers dwindle.”
Currently, Worcester is facing a shortage of almost 50 officers, further compounded by approximately 16 to 18 officers on injury leave.
Worcester Police Lieutenant Sean Murtha shed light on the demanding process that prospective officers must undergo, from the annual civil service exam to the six-month academy training, creating a prolonged timeline before officers hit the streets.
To combat this challenge, the department is adopting innovative strategies to attract a diverse workforce.
“We have people assigned full time to recruitment go to job fairs … spread the word to try to get people to take the exam,” Murtha explained.
Social media plays a key role in their recruitment efforts, with dedicated personnel engaging in content creation and actively participating in job fairs to encourage exam participation.
“We want to make sure everyone in the community is represented, and to show people what real policing is all about,” Miranda added.
The department further aims to showcase the positive impact officers can have on the community, focusing especially on underrepresented groups.
“I grew up here in the city. I grew up in the projects and just going through the process and seeing another officer that looks like me — that was huge,” Miranda said.
Despite the difficulties in recruitment, Miranda and Murtha believe that policing is a rewarding career for those with a passion for helping others.
“I think if you speak to people who are on the job, most people wouldn’t do anything else,” Murtha said. “If it’s something you think you’d like to do, it probably is for you.”
Sergeant Richard Cipro, president of the Worcester police union Local 504, identified two key factors contributing to the recruitment challenge: a perceived lack of respect for police officers and the nationwide debate surrounding police reform.
Earlier this year, Cipro discussed the impact that the national narrative on policing has had on profession, with officers feeling ostracized and lacking the support they once received.
The ongoing Department of Justice investigation into Worcester’s policing practices further adds to the challenges the department faces.
Former police chief Steven Sargent agreed, emphasizing that several obstacles, including a competitive job market, negative media portrayals of police and the lengthy recruitment process may have deterred potential candidates.