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Updated: March 26, 2023, 4:04 PM

NYPD re-ups contract with Hollywood ad agency amid recruitment woes

By Craig McCarthy

The NYPD has quietly renewed a multi-million-dollar contract with a Hollywood ad agency in an effort to attract new cops — as the department struggles to increase recruitment levels while facing a mass exodus of officers.

The Los Angeles-based firm, Walton Isaacson LLC, was awarded a $5 million two-year deal in November to continue advising on police recruitment and media strategies, according to city contracts.

It came after the agency, which also has offices in the Big Apple, reaped a $54 million five-year contract with the city in 2018 to help stir up NYPD recruitment.

But last year, the class of new recruits joining the force was still 5% smaller than it was in 2016 — despite the department shelling out $3.7 million in advertising in 2022.

“The NYPD could spend a billion dollars a year on recruiting ads. It would make no difference as long as the pay and benefits remain inferior to every other policing job in this area,” said Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch.

“The city should stop wasting its money on recruiting ads and instead invest in a more effective recruiting tool: competitive compensation.”

Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell has publicly acknowledged that recruitment has posed a “significant issue,” and said the NYPD is getting “creative” with how to entice prospective applicants, including by putting calls out at military bases and colleges.

“We recognize that with the attrition that we’ve seen that we needed to get a little bit more imaginative when it comes to recruitment,” Sewell said at a budget hearing before the City Council Committee on Public Safety this month.

“We put out a number of different videos. We have people who are responding to a number of locations basically really getting the word out, since the pandemic that we’re open for business.”

The top cop, however, made no mention of Walton Isaacson, which was first tapped by the city five years ago to create a marketing campaign that would “effectively identify and recruit the highest quality and most diverse candidates” for the NYPD, the original contract reads.

Over the past five years, the NYPD also spent nearly $12 million in advertising for recruitment through the firm, with the tally ticking up each year except for during the height of the pandemic in 2020, spending records show. Nearly 40% of those funds were spent over the last 14 months.

Just below 2,000 new officers joined the force during each of the first three years of Walton Isaacson’s contract, between 2018 and 2020.

Those classes were smaller than the ones from 2015 and 2016, when 2,800 officers were sworn in, according to department figures obtained by The Post.

It wasn’t until 2021 that the NYPD started attracting the same levels of recruits as it did before the ad agency took over, but that year also had an extra academy class due to COVID delays. Last year, about 2,650 new cops were sworn in.

The recruitment struggles come as the NYPD grapples with a staggering number of officers leaving the force.

The Post previously reported that cops have been leaving at a record pace, with police sources saying poor morale is pushing officers out to other agencies that offer much higher pay and quality of life.

NYPD pension data shows 239 officers tapped out in January and February, a 36% spike from the 176 who fled in the same period last year and a disturbing 117% jump from the 110 in 2021.

The NYPD did not respond to questions asking for examples of the work the ad agency has done or goals the department has set.

Multiple calls to Walton Isaacson or its CEO and co-founder Aaron Walton were not returned.

The ad agency makes zero mention of working with the NYPD while boasting about its work with McDonald’s on its Happy Meals for the remake of “The Lion King” and Lexus promotions paired with Marvel’s “The Black Panther.”

One of the main issues Walton Isaacson was tapped to address was growing the academy classes as well as diversifying the ranks to be more representative of New York City’s population.

Over the past five years, the number of black officers slightly dipped from just over 5,500 to 5,300 currently — or 15% of the 33,882 uniformed officers, while the city is 24% black, according to NYPD data and reports from the time.

The department did make small gains in adding more Asian-American and Hispanic officers since 2018. About 800 officers of Asian descent have joined over the last five years, reaching over 3,500 and making up 10% of the force, while the city is 14% Asian.

The NYPD has nearly 10,500 Hispanic officers, compared to just under 10,000 five years ago, making up more than 31% of the force and the city is 29% Hispanic.

As of March, there were 14,500 white officers on the force, making up 42% of the total, while the city is just over 32% white. That’s a dip from 2018, when the number of white officers, 18,000, made up about half of the uniformed ranks.