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Detroit police recruits at drive-thru event Saturday may leave with job offers

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

Detroit — People who apply for jobs during the Detroit Police Department's drive-thru recruiting fair Saturday likely could leave with pre-conditional job offers, the department said.

The drive-thru recruiting event will run 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday in the parking lot of police headquarters downtown, 1301 Third Street.

Applicants will pull up and be greeted by one of about a dozen field recruiting officers who will talk about the job and answer questions, said Sgt. Starr Gonzales of the department's field recruiting unit.

Detroit had wanted to recruit 400 police officers in 2020, Mayor Mike Duggan told The News in February, when the city began a $500,000 ad campaign encouraging people, especially Detroiters, to apply.

"We're hoping to bust the myth that we don’t have resources," Duggan said at the time. "We are making huge investments in the department. I wish I could give every precinct commander another 10 or 15 officers to put on the street."

February:Detroit ready to spend money to attract police officer recruits

That was February. COVID-19 reached Michigan the next month, and 6,900 people have died.

Detroit has been particularly hard-hit by the virus. In August the city staged a memorial on Belle Isle for the 1,500 Detroiters felled by it.

August:'I couldn't hide my tears': Families mourn at Belle Isle tribute to virus victims

Police Chief James Craig has said recruiting is the department's biggest challenge. The physical threat of the virus, in a position demanding high contact with the public, is an issue, Craig said.

In March, Craig himself caught the coronavirus.

"It's no secret our department was ravaged by the virus," Craig said.

Hundreds of officers were quarantined at different points.

April:Hundreds of Detroit cops back from COVID-19 quarantine

Late in May, in response to the death of George Floyd, 46, during his Memorial Day arrest in Minneapolis, activists in Detroit began organizing anti-police brutality marches that are still happening regularly, nearly five months later.

May:Man shot dead, dozens arrested as protest in Detroit turns violent

The virus has forced a switch to virtual recruiting, and has had a lesser impact because all recruiters are in the same situation.

"Everybody has a 'we're hiring' sign," Gonzales said.

Newly sworn-in peace officers hug each other after their graduation ceremony in September. This weekend, potential recruits can talk to recruiters with the Detroit Police Department.

The protests have required a creative approach: challenging reformers to be part of the solution.

"Be the change," Gonzales said. "If you can help this department be better, put on a uniform."

On Friday, when Craig spoke to The News, he had just overseen graduation festivities for 28 new police officers. During his remarks, he referenced an ambush last month his former city, Los Angeles, in which two deputies were shot as they sat in their vehicle, as the kind of threat officers could face on the streets.

"People are more aggressive and more brazen toward police than I've seen in my 44 years," Craig said.

Craig gets regular reports from the department's crime intelligence unit about attacks on police. Not only in America, but around the world. He cited the reports from the day: police officer shot in the arm in Clayton County, Georgia; couple arrested after firing at officers in Utah; Maoists attack off-duty cops at funeral in India.

Detroit has hired about 200 officers this year, Gonzales said. In August, Gonzales pinned the badge on her nephew, Daniel Colegrove, at his graduation ceremony. 

Sgt. Starr Gonzales, a 14-year veteran with the Detroit Police Department, pins the badge on her nephew, Officer Daniel Colegrove, after the presentation of the badges at a police graduation ceremony. Angel Colegrove, Daniel's mom, is in the background.

Recruiters are prepared to accommodate hundreds of applicants Saturday. Most people should plan to stay 10 to 20 minutes.

"20 minutes tops," Gonzales said.

When people arrive and park, they will fill out an application and authorize the department to conduct background checks. That authorization paperwork can take about a week in a normal recruiting situation, Gonzales said.

Inside, department personnel will process the applications and conduct quick background checks. People who check out could hear back later Saturday about setting up a COVID test, their law enforcement testing, and their physical agility test.

But those who apply Saturday may leave with an offer conditioned on passing Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards reading and writing tests, the ability test and the background checks.

People with a felony conviction cannot be hired. Applicants must have driver's licenses, as well as a high school degree or its equivalent, and be at least 18 years old. 

People are paid $20 an hour while in police academy, and their pay will increase to $30 per hour "over the course of five years," the department said. 

Pre-conditional job offers are a new tactic on the department's recruiting trail, one that "has been requested" by prospects, especially by students studying criminal justice in college, Gonzales said. 

Craig backs the move, saying "it's important to think creatively in times of uncertainty."

"Going to class with (criminal justice majors), we realized that's what they're looking for," Gonzales said. "We never had one, until someone was done with all the process. So we're giving it to them on the front end, but the bases are the same."

jdickson@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @downi75