116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Earlier this month, the Cedar Rapids Police Department announced it is looking to recruit already certified law enforcement officers to join its force.
The lateral transfer program is a first for the department and came about because of the lack of qualified applicants in the last hiring period.
The Cedar Rapids department isn’t alone in pursuing that course.
The Marion Police Department rolled out its lateral transfer program in February 2020. The Iowa City Police Department is offering a hiring bonus to candidates who are already certified through the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy.
Certified officers who are interested in applying to the Cedar Rapids department to join the Cedar Rapids department can apply through the city’s website. The application period will remain open until June 7.
The Gazette talked to CRPD Capt. Jeff Hembera about the hiring strategy.
Q: What is the lateral transfer program?
A: What we’re doing is trying to incentivize already certified officers and bring them into our hiring process to join our department.
In order to attract those officers, we are offering the opportunity for these transfers to come into the department at a pay rate that is commensurate with their current level of experience.
So, for instance, if we hire a certified officer who already has seven years of experience at another department, that candidate will start with us at that salary level instead of coming in at a new hire rate.
Q: Why focus on recruiting officers who are already certified?
A: If an officer comes to us already certified, then basically as soon as they get hired, they can go straight to the road.
Of course, they would still need to go through a training period with a training officer so they can learn about our processes and protocols.
But they won’t have to go through an academy because they are already certified, and that saves the department time and money and helps us fill some of those staffing holes faster.
Q: What is significant about skipping the academy training?
A: Well, the Cedar Rapids Police Department puts on its own police academy once a year, and it’s five months long — so that’s five months that we have to wait to get new hires on the road.
Hiring already certified officers means they can skip the academy, and it saves us from having to hold a second academy this year.
The academy is a lot of work to put together. It uses a lot of police department resources, which is why we only do it once a year. We also have to bring in outside instructors and use outside facilities, so it’s a lot to coordinate and put together.
Q: Is it typical for the police department to hold two hiring periods in one year?
A: No, it’s not, but we were unable to hire as many people as we needed during the first go around.
Our last hiring period was in January, and we were looking to hire, I believe, about 18 officers, and we ended up taking on 11 new hires.
The interesting thing about this last hiring period is that we weren’t lacking in applicants, but we still came up short on qualified candidates.
We started with about 135 applicants, which is pretty consistent with the number of applicants we’ve seen in previous years. From there, we invited 95 to test (physical and written tests).
The weird thing was that only about half the group actually showed up for testing, maybe about 50 to 60, so that was half the pool eliminated right there.
After the physical ability test, we were left with 26 candidates who were invited to take the written exam — which is unusually low. After that we extended offers to 12 individuals — 11 accepted and were hired and the 12th had already accepted a position with another agency.
So we still have about seven positions to fill, which is why we are now looking to recruit some lateral transfers.
Q: What kind of candidates are you expecting to attract with this lateral transfer opportunity?
A: Honestly, I have no idea. I am guessing we’ll see applicants from other nearby departments and probably some from officers who are currently employed with smaller, rural departments, but we could also see applications from out-of-state candidates.
We are certainly not setting out to take employees from other departments. We are not targeting employees from specific departments or anything like that.
But I realize we will likely get candidates from nearby departments. And frankly, that’s kind of the nature of the business right now. There are only so many candidates, and it is not unusual for them to move between departments.
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