People considering a career in law enforcement will have a chance to learn more about the profession from Roswell police officers at a recruitment event later this month.
The event is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 21 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Roswell Convention & Civic Center at 912 N. Main St., Joel Smoyer, recruitment and training officer for the Roswell Police Department, said Thursday.
Mike Matthews, assistant city manager for the city of Roswell, told members of the City Council’s Public Safety Committee in December about the event. He said it will be a chance for anyone who ever envisioned being a police officer, to hear from experienced officers about such a career.
“We want to make it an opportunity for these young people to come in and really just have a one-on-one conversation with a police officer rather than just a recruiter,” Matthews said.
When people arrive at the Convention Center for the event, he said, they will be greeted by Phil Smith, Roswell chief of police, and his staff. Attendees will then be assigned an officer, with whom they can ask just about anything they want to know about becoming an officer.
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Computers will be set up in the venue, where applicants can apply on the spot. People who attend the event, but don’t wish to apply right then, will also be able to leave their information for an officer to get back to them later.
Smoyer said people looking to become a police officer often have questions ranging from the hours an officer must work, to the situations they encounter, to compensation and benefits.
“So this event is an opportunity for us to answer these questions for those people,” he said.
Police equipment, including SWAT vehicles, will be on display at the event for people to see, Smoyer said. Officers from different divisions in the department, including the patrol and Investigative Divisions and school resource officers will be on hand.
For youngsters interested in a possible career path into law enforcement, members of the Department’s Explorer Post 911 will be on hand, Smoyer said. The program teaches young people, ages 14 to 21, about the criminal justice system and aspects of law enforcement.
The Roswell Police Department currently has 15 openings, Smoyer said, a number not unusual for communities of similar size and population in southeast New Mexico. However, hiring in departments is an issue nationwide, something that was not always the case.
“Probably five, six years ago, you would have, you know, 50 people show up for one position, one or two positions, and there would be a waiting list,” Smoyer said.
The downward trend in people looking to make law enforcement a career, Smoyer said, is partly because competition from other jobs that pay more, such as in the oil and gas fields.
However, he said, one of the biggest factors dissuading people from going into law enforcement, is what Smoyer characterizes as the increasingly negative way police and the law enforcement profession are viewed in the media and popular culture.
“You look at the negative things that have gone on in the news media and stuff like that, and that leads to a cultural perception that police are bad or gives a negative connotation. That is why we don’t see the numbers (of applicants) that we used to,” Smoyer said.
To find recruits, Smoyer said the department has done outreach through posters, flyers and radio. The department has also gone to events in nearby states, most recently Colorado, to find recruits.
However, what the department is most focused on, is trying to find people from Roswell and surrounding communities to join the department’s ranks — people who already live in the area, already have a vested interest in the community, and so are more likely to stay with the department.
Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.