The Chief
December 13, 2002

PBA: It’s the Pay, Stupid To Aid Recruitment

The Police Department is set to use some of its four-year $20-million advertising recruitment budget to hire a communication agency to direct a more targeted advertising campaign to help boost turnout for police officer tests over the next four years.

The company, Bernard Hodes Group, Inc. (BHG), is expected to take over advertising duties for the NYPD in March 2003.

“Wasted At Our Salary”

Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association spokesman Al O’Leary criticized the spending. He said that despite the new contract putting officers’ starting salaries at $34,514, it is still not close to what police departments in neighboring areas pay. “No matter how much they spend, it is going to be wasted as long as we are not competitive in the market,” he said.

The department is hoping that fewer but more effective ads will stop its current trend of low turnout for police tests. If the contract is finalized as expected, funds previously set aside exclusively for ads will also be used to pay BHG.

“This will help us get the proper expertise and reach the right markets,” said NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Management and Budget Edward J. Allocco.

In the past two years, outside firms designed ads on a pro-bono basis, with the NYPD spending $10 million per year to air them. According to the department, without a formal contract in place it was forced to utilized an inefficient combination of other city agency contracts and small purchases for recruitment ads.

Since 1986, turnout for police tests has averaged 66 percent. Only 26 percent turned out to take the last test held this fall, however.

Recruitment experts have cited the NYPD’s new program allowing candidates to apply online for free as a key factor in both a recent application surge and the low turnout. In 1995 the department instituted a 60 college credit requirement for appointment. “Since that time, meeting the hiring goals has become more difficult,” noted the Request For Proposals (RFP) sent out 10 months ago to prospective firms.

Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly has previously said that the department would not consider removing the college-credit requirements in an attempt to widen the current applicant pool. Other police forces throughout the country, facing similar recruitment difficulties, have relaxed their requirements in an effort to attract more candidates.

Mr. Allocco said that the NYPD chose BHG over the 17 other ad agencies that responded to the department’s RFP because it is a firm that specializes in law enforcement. BHG’s clients include the Houston Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The NYPD currently loses an average of 2,000 to 3,000 officers a year to retirement and resignations. Officials expect the trend to continue over the next several years because police officers who came on board during a spike in hiring in the early 1980’s are now becoming eligible for retirement. The NYPD expects to hire between 10,000 and 15,000 new officers over the next five years to maintain the budged uniformed headcount of 37,210.

Historically, only one in 10 applicants go on to take and pass the test. Over the next five years, the department would need roughly 100,000 applicants to produce 10,000 police officers.

The current recruitment staff – consisting of one Captain, one Lieutenant, six Sergeants and 35 Police Officers – is expected to remain and work together with BHG. Mr. Allocco said they would continue to perform the hands-on aspects of recruiting, such as visiting college campuses and military bases.

In its proposal to the department, BHG promised to quadruple the average number of NYPD applicants per test. It outlined several possible new ad ideas and slogans to be used in subways and on billboards throughout the city. “Working for a white collar crook, or arresting one? Is one slogan. “Aspire to middle management, or inspire a great city?” another stated.