When adding new hires the department plans to use the recruiting strategy it revamped in March to ensure it is become more reflective of Plano’s diverse demographics.
While Plano’s population is 54.1 percent white, the police department’s population is 83 percent white, according to the 2015 American Community Survey.
“To reach out to your community you have to be reflective of the makeup of your community,” Plano Police Chief Gregory Rushin said. “We have to have representation from all minority groups.”
As Plano grows, police department officials continue to add officers while being mindful of the city’s demographics and addressing national concerns about diversity in law enforcement.
“We can avoid those incidents because we are transparent here in Plano,” said Sgt. Jon Britton with the department’s Crime Prevention Unit and Recruitment Department.
The department does not try to be reflective of the city because it has to be, but rather because it makes the department and community stronger. A department that embraces the community and different cultures creates less chance for mistrust, he said.
“It allows us to bridge the gap with that demographic or culture,” he said. “When you can speak the language, it does nothing but improve [the community and department] relationship.”
New recruitment efforts
As demographics change, the department has implemented new strategies to recruit officers. For example, the department noticed growth in Asian communities and as a result, the department hired a “Chinese liaison” to help with these efforts, Britton said.
The department began using social media, Indeed.com and is advertising in print media to connect with various minority groups. The department also added a Women in Law Enforcement career day to its list of recruitment events.
“Today is much more, in my opinion, personal and advanced in the style and techniques that are used,” Helmberger said. “I have a vested interest because [a new hire] is going to be my backup.”
Before the change in strategies, the extent of recruit outreach consisted of setting up booths at college job fairs. Now the department is taking the approach a step further by contacting professors and department heads to schedule visits with students.
The police department is also asking its officers to take more ownership of the recruitment process by developing personal relationships with potential officers and recruits, Britton said.
In the seven months since new recruitment efforts were implemented, the department has seen an increase in the number and diversity of recruits, Britton said.
Before recruitment efforts were updated, 200 people signed up to take the civil service exam, and about
40 percent of those individuals took the test. By contrast, the first exam following implementation of the new recruiting strategy saw 300 people sign up and about 44 percent take the test on Sept. 10, Britton said.
In addition, more women and minorities are taking the exam, two demographics which have increased from 15 percent to close to 40 percent of test takers, Britton said.
While there is no consistent schedule for when exams are given, the next one would likely be in the spring. Before a new exam is given, the department must completely go through the list of potential hires that scored a 70 percent or higher the civil service exam. When the list is exhausted, the department may issue a new test.
“[The department’s] style is to get out there and find the best people,” Public Information Officer David Tilley said. “We’ll worry about teaching them to be a police officer. Let’s find the people who really want to help serve the community.”