NHPD applications see late spike

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Photo by James Lu.

The New Haven Police Department saw a late surge in applicants for its new class of cops Monday, a major bump in the department’s ongoing attempts to expand its ranks.

Though applications for a new 45-person class of officers closed at 5 p.m. Monday, a line of candidates were still waiting outside the NHPD’s Union Avenue headquarters for processing at 5:30 p.m. The lingering line testified to a late surge in applicants that saw more than 700 submissions, according to NHPD spokesman David Hartman, who added the number exceeded expectations and represented a particularly strong showing after only a “very discouraging” 200 had applied before last Friday.

“I think we probably would have liked [the number of applicants] to be a little higher,” said Richard Epstein, the chairman of the Board of Police Commissioners, on Monday night. “But the quality is going to be more important than the quantity.”

The NHPD was concerned last week because it had only received “slightly over 200” applicants by Thursday, a “terrible number” given recruitment efforts kicked off Oct. 31, Hartman said. Applicants trickled in through the day Friday and by day’s end the department had over 400 applicants; then, on Monday over 300 put in their applications, bringing the final total to “between 700 and 750,” he added.

This is the first time the NHPD recruit application has been available electronically, but applicants must submit their forms in person at NHPD headquarters, so many applicants may have put off submission to the last moment, Hartman explained.

“When was the last time you handed a paper in two weeks before deadline?” asked Elizabeth Benton, who is serving as City Hall spokesperson in Adam Joseph’s absence.

Epstein agreed that the late torrent of applications occurred because “people procrastinate,” but noted that the total applicant numbers were lower than in some past recruits.

The current recruit round’s 700 plus applicants was “on par” in number with the previous round of applications, which took place in early 2007, Benton said. But Epstein said this year’s numbers fall short of the “over 1,000” applicants the department has received at times in the past decade.

Epstein said he did not know the reason for the decline in applicants, though he said he thought that “maybe it’s a less attractive industry” because of perceptions of dangers on the job.

Hartman said he would have expected applicant numbers to be “quite high” given the sluggish economy and difficulties of obtaining employment as lucrative as the NHPD’s — recruits will earn a yearly salary of $40,626, according to the NHPD’s officer application form.

But the difficulty of NHPD training combined with the precariousness of public sector jobs amid ubiquitous budget cuts may have deterred candidates, Hartman said.

“Who wants to go through the rigors of police academy and the physical agility requirements to find that you’re the last one hired in your class [and therefore] the first subjected possibly to layoffs?” Hartman said.

Potential applicants may have also been deterred by the layoffs of 16 NHPD officers in February, he added.

The NHPD is not the only police department in the Elm City looking to expand. Since the University is expanding, particularly with construction of two new residential colleges slated for as early as 2014, the Yale Police Department is looking to add to its ranks, Assistant Chief Michael Patten said, adding that exact numbers have not yet been determined.

The YPD and NHPD currently have 87 and 412 officers, respectively.

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