What are RPD recruiters looking for in new officers?

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — The City of Rochester is trying to reimagine its police department in the middle of a gun violence emergency.

In the last year-and-a-half, 65 officers and investigators have either retired or transferred, which has those who are left, working double shifts fairly regularly.

While RPD recruiters are hard at work, enticing people to join the force now is much different than it was just a few years ago.

Rochester Police Officer Michelle Calderon was born and raised in Rochester.

“I didn’t trust police officers either. I grew up in the city. We weren’t raised to talk to police, things of that nature,” she tells News10NBC.

But, she felt a pull to change that dynamic.

"When I started, I was a single mom, two young kids actually, and I worked full-time at Tops Supermarket on Lake Avenue," Calderon said. "You just got to make it work. If this is something you really want, you have to make it work."

Calderon took the civil service and agility tests and worked toward becoming part of the very department she didn’t trust as a kid. Sixteen years later, she recruits young men and women to consider a similar path.

"We need these young kids that live in the community, deal with the issues that everyone is dealing with right now, we need you to be a part of the answer,” she says.

Far fewer people are interested in the job now compared to just a few years ago.

"There was like 2-3,000 people that signed up for the job, and now those numbers are drastically lower," Calderon says. "We had like 1,500 sign up last year, and about 400 showed up for the written exam."

The department used to target mostly criminal justice majors, but now Calderon is looking for “social workers, people with a psychology background… we need people who can communicate very well, communication is key."

While those with an associate degree or higher start at a higher pay rate, you only have to have a high school diploma or a GED to become an officer. While a felony conviction will exclude you from consideration, lesser charges in your youth might not. If it’s the civil service test you’re worried about, Calderon says they have "workshops, written workshops for the exam."

As for the questions she gets about the treatment and safety of police officers in the field, the new policies that put their actions under a microscope, and the establishment of an outside police accountability board, Calderon answers them all similarly.

"You do the job, you do a good job, you treat everyone with respect, and you have nothing to worry about,” she says.

The Rochester Locust Club tells News10NBC there are 200 members of RPD who are eligible to retire at any time with only 15 days’ notice. At the same time, there are just 16 new officers currently doing their ride-along training who won’t be ready until fall to replace them.

A civil service test is scheduled for Sept. 18. The deadline to sign-up for the test is Aug. 6. Learn more about joining the Rochester Police Department here.