Like many of its counterparts, Havre de Grace Police Department is having a difficult time recruiting new officers and is turning to alternative programs to generate interest in the department.
In addition to forming an explorers post, the department is creating a police auxiliary and a police cadet program, according to Cpl. Dan Petz, the public information officer who’s also in charge of community policing.
“We’ve been having a hard time recruiting,. Everybody is on the same page, they’re not getting as many recruits. We’re just not getting the applicants we used to,” Petz said. “We’re trying some aggressive things to do some better recruiting and get our community even more active in our department.”
Each of the new programs is geared toward law enforcement careers.
“They’ll be learning actual law enforcement skills, train on them, be tested on them,” Petz said. “Hopefully that will turn into a career for them one day.”
The community and Havre de Grace already have a close relationship, Petz said. As the officer in charge of community policing, Petz is often at community events, and residents often provide the department with information on how to make the city better.
“And vice versa. We give them advice on how to give us better information to let us know how to help them better,” he said.
The Havre de Grace Explorer Post 939 — for anyone in eighth grade up to age 21 who is interested in law enforcement — held its first meeting last week at the police department on Pennington Avenue.
The inaugural class had eight members, but Petz said he hopes to get up to 20 explorers. They will meet twice a month, help out with special events and receive lessons on radio codes and traffic stops, among other aspects of policing.
“Across the board, they’ll learn a great deal of knowledge about a police officer’s job,” Petz said.
The cadet program is a part-time, paid position through which the people hired as cadets will transition to the police academy when they’re 21 to become a police officer.
Havre de Grace is hoping to hire two cadets to start and is working on an agreement with Harford Community College that the part-time cadets will attend school the other part of the time.
The positions are part of the department’s proposed budget for FY2020, which must still be approved by the city council. If it’s approved, the funding won’t be available until July 1, Petz said.
The new auxiliary program is for any Havre de Grace resident who wants to volunteer with the police department. They’ll help with special events, man tables and help around the department with other duties as assigned.
Petz would like to have four to six auxiliary members join the department by April. As of Monday, five people had applied and an orientation is scheduled for February.
He anticipates running the program like a fire department auxiliary, where members have to volunteer a certain number of hours a month — he suggested eight — and attend mandatory training.
No one in any of the new positions will be carrying weapons or enforcing laws, Petz said.
“They are not sworn police officers, they’re more community outreach,” he said. “They’re like a city ambassador.”