The Fayetteville Police Department went to Puerto Rico for several days to recruit 25 new officers — costing the city more than $20,000.
The FPD, as well as many police agencies nearby, have several vacancies. This makes the job of current officers more difficult. Several incentives have been added to help attract potential recruits, including higher wages, signing bonuses, education incentives and relocation reimbursements.
The agency is also looking at other police departments to see if experienced officers would like a job with them. One place that is becoming a popular site for police recruitment is Puerto Rico. The FPD isn’t the only police agency to find recruits in Puerto Rico. The North Charleston Police Department in South Carolina has recently sworn in three out of ten incoming officers from the island as part of a partnership with the University of Puerto Rico.
According to Fayetteville Police Chief Gina Hawkins, the U.S. island territory’s pension system for its police officers does not compare with the retirement and benefits provided by the FPD. Last year, officers went on strike to demand a better public pension plan. The Puerto Rico Police Officers do not receive Social Security or health insurance upon retirement, obtaining only 30% to 40% of their salary.
Seven people from FPD flew to Puerto Rico on April 3. Those in attendance included Hawkins, Police Major Roberto Bryan Jr., Sgt. Gerald Poland Serrano, Sgt. Kendra Faire, Detective Brandy Bohannon, Detective Stephanie Berrios-Rivera, and Officer Asbel Torres. They left on April 7.
For FPD to travel to Puerto Rico, the tickets cost FPD $4,584.70. This cost did not include the $176.47 for the Main Cabin Extra seating, which is $25.21 for each person flying.
The recruiting event took place at Embassy Suites by Hilton San Juan Hotel & Casino. The FPD spent $5,352 for two conference rooms on April 4, April 5 and April 6. The hotel also charged FPD $4,084.80 for four rooms and $169.52 for parking.
$4,989.63 was spent at Publi-Inversiones Puerto Rico, the owner of the daily newspaper, El Vocero. It is a free Puerto Rican newspaper that is published in San Juan. FPD ran several advertisements from March 16 to April 5 in the El Vocero. The ad on Facebook received 537 reactions, 476 shares and 160 comments.
Other costs include a $258.04 visit to Walmart, an $86.73 visit to a grocery store, $75 to park at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, $130 in baggage receipts, and $620 in passenger receipts.
On April 4, there were three separate time slots for orientation. On April 5, there were two time-slots for the written and physical exams. On April 6, there were the interviews.
Applicants had to be at least 20.5 years of age, have a driver’s license, have an acceptable driving record, have a high school diploma, and be fluent in English. Those that passed the exams will have to travel to North Carolina to take the Police Officer Physical Abilities Test, the Computer Voice Stress Analyzer, the Medical and Psychological Testing and pass an interview with Hawkins.
Sixty people applied during the recruiting event. Hawkins told Up & Coming Weekly that 25 of those applicants passed the entry test. That means that the FPD, and the city, spent $825.07 to recruit one applicant from Puerto Rico.
However, Hawkins told Up & Coming Weekly that the recruiting event was worth it.
“What’s the cost of going without an officer?” she asked. “How much money is spent on overtime when we are short 50 officers?”
Up & Coming Weekly reached out to FPD about the price totals and when the recruits will be expected to start but have not received a reply at the time of publication.