The Essex Police Department is coming to a screen near you.
The local PD unveiled a two-minute recruitment flick on its Facebook page last month that seeks to appeal to a new generation of workers, one focused not only on what their job might look like, but what they can do in their free time, said Cpt. Ron Hoague.
“We wanted to show them that this is a good place to live and work,” Hoague said. That’s why in addition to the day-in-the-life scenes one would expect in a recruitment spot – exercising in the police station, overseeing morning traffic, racing off to a call – the video also takes viewers on a flyover of some Essex’s recreational landmarks.
The other theme the department wanted to get across: The support of the community, exemplified by Essex’s state-of-the-art police station, which explains why the station takes on a starring role in the short video, earning three separate flyover shots.
Produced by John Lyden Productions, the video was shot over the course of several days in May and cost about $4,300, paid for with money out of the department’s advertising budget. The PD came up with the idea after seeing a similar video shot from a Massachusetts department, Hoague said.
It’s EPD’s latest attempt to stand out to potential recruits, a pressing need in a time when retirements and departures have left EPD with five open positions. That’s after hiring three new officers just last week.
Essex is not alone in its struggles. In 2017, a group of Chittenden County agencies typically in competition for applicants joined forces at the first-ever county-wide recruitment event. The event was an acknowledgment of the difficulties felt by departments across the state to find qualified recruits and offered participants a one-stop shop, allowing them to take the entrance and fitness exams, speak with agency reps and even interview on-site.
But Hoague believes police work is different today than when he started on the job over 20 years ago, pointing to “negative” media attention and increased police oversight, which he has referred to as a double-edged sword. Plus, people can now make more money on a more flexible schedule in the private sector, he said, so not only is EPD competing with other departments around the country, but also with the public at-large.
“It’s getting tougher and tougher to find people that spend a whole part of their life doing this kind of work,” he said.
Despite all that, EPD has stopped short of incentives like other Vermont agencies. Milton, for example, is offering a $10,000 signing bonus to any certified officer willing to transfer there. Hoague said signing bonuses have been a conversation in Essex but the department currently has no plans to make the move, hoping old-fashioned recruitment efforts – with a dash of modern flair – can still do the trick.
So far, the video has performed well on social media: Nearly 5,000 people have watched the video since its posting on July 24. Hoague hopes to spread it further, perhaps showing it at Town Meeting Day and maybe even during preview at the Essex Cinemas, though this particular task was proving more difficult than expected; the theater referred him to its ad agency, which apparently won’t do it for free.
Show business – go figure.