The goal of an experimental trainee initiative at the Asheboro Police Department is greater diversity.
Under the program, the city will cover the $1,200 cost of Basic Law Enforcement Training for certain candidates, and those trainees will be paid employees while they are in BLET.
After they complete the coursework and pass the state exam, the trainees would be hired as full-time officers and begin 16 weeks of on-the-job training.
“The purpose is to increase our diversity that would adequately reflect our city,” Asheboro Police Chief Jody Williams told Asheboro City Council members, who approved the program at their Aug. 6 meeting.
Williams explained that larger departments often recruit minorities before they have completed BLET training, depleting the pool of minority candidates. In the past, the city could not hire someone until he or she had finished the basic training program.
Another stumbling block for some prospects is money.
“I have talked to several people who are interested in law enforcement,” Williams said, “but they don’t have the means to go to school.”
At the council meeting, Asheboro Mayor David Smith characterized the program as potentially “life-changing” for some individuals with the city and its residents as beneficiaries.
Currently, the 83-member department is overwhelmingly white and male, with just three African-American men (two sworn officers and one civilian employee) and two Latinos (one man and one woman, both sworn officers) on the payroll.
There are a dozen women. Just six are sworn officers.
Compare those numbers to these 2010 U.S. Census Bureau statistics about Asheboro’s population:
- Female, 52.4 percent
- Hispanic or Latino, 26.9 percent
- Black or African-American, 12 percent
Williams wants to use the trainee program to fill vacancies for two patrol officers. Applications are being accepted through Friday, Aug. 14.
“Every chief, every staff across the state, will tell you they’re having a hard time finding minorities,” Williams said in an interview on Monday.
“I think this is important because we are part of the community. The city employees, we should reflect our community.”
Also, Williams said, when police respond to a call, people often feel more comfortable talking with an officer they know — and if they don’t know any officers involved, they may feel more comfortable talking with someone who looks like them.
“I feel like this program opens up a door,” he said.
Of course, the experimental program is open to any applicant, not just minority applicants, Stacy Griffin, the city’s human resources director, said Monday.
In a hypothetical example she posed, a 45-year-old white man who is working two jobs and raising a family has a long-held dream of becoming a police officer. But he probably could not afford to quit work for four months (eight months if he attended classes on nights and weekends) for BLET training.
Under this program, that man might get a shot at a career in law enforcement.
The final choice, whether there are two candidates or 100 candidates for a vacancy, rests with the chief.
The trial program will sunset on June 30, 2017. If it unfolds as envisioned, city officials can elect to renew it, and possibly to expand it to other city departments.
“We are starting with the police department,” Griffin said. “We are going to see how this works. If this works how we want it to work, then absolutely, we could use this city-wide.”