The La Habra Police Department can hardly keep up with the flood of applications they receive for job openings these days.
Between entry-level police officers, academy trained officers and lateral entry officers, La Habra PD has received more than 800 applications the last few years.
But this wasn’t always the case, according to police officials.
Prior to 2017, vacancies at the Department weren’t easy to fill and positions were often left open for extended periods of time. Applications were hard-copy and the only way to receive them was when job seekers dropped them off in the main office or mailed them to the Department. Police officials would sift through the applications hopeful to find quality applicants.
As a part of the Professional Standards Unit, Corporal Paul McPhillips knew they needed to change how the Department was recruiting. So he helped champion the one place where everyone seems to go these days.
McPhillips, in collaboration with the City’s H/R Department, identified a good online application process and put it in use. This led to the results that since 2017, vacancies have dropped to an all time low and the number of quality applicants have jumped to an all-time high.
“It’s taken off,” said Cpl. Paul McPhillips, who helps oversee La Habra PD’s hiring process. “At one point we were in the double digits in vacancies and now I’m down in the low single digits which is fantastic.”
This comes at a time when the demands placed on law enforcement are greater than ever before.
Police officers are being tasked with confronting social issues such as mental illness, homelessness and substance abuse.
Training of police officers is lengthy and more comprehensive, and at the same time, scrutiny of the police by the media and the public is more intense than in the past.
The Police Executive Research Forum, a Washington based independent research organization focusing on issues in policing, reached these conclusions in a September report titled: “The Workforce Crisis and What Police Agencies are Doing About it.”
“We’re seeing a lot more applicants with college degrees” McPhillips said. “Pretty much everyone I’ve hired has a college degree. That is just the way it is now.”
La Habra PD posted for an entry level police officer position on Nov.20 and received 26 applications over the next six days, McPhillips said.
Being a smaller agency, La Habra PD was having a hard time processing the high number of applications so they used a similar tactic that a neighboring agency was using. This process helped to identify the best candidates for the La Habra Police Department.
A pool of 200 applicants could be narrowed down to between 40 and 80 after physical and written testing, McPhillips said.
“The process is a lot faster,” he said. “We’re getting more quality candidates for positions and the testing and hiring process is sped up because we have this ability to do this.”
After orientation and the candidate pool is narrowed down, McPhillips invites the prospective officers back for an initial interview.
Applicants who pass the first interview are called back for a second more in depth interview and if they pass that, a background check conducted by an outside firm comes next.
The new process has gone so well, the City of La Habra’s human resources department is now using web-based applications in all departments.
“The creation of an end-to-end digital platform for all recruiting, examination and selection … has provided the city and job applicants a more efficient, engaging, and purposeful process by which we continue to attract, recruit and select top talent to fulfill the city’s public service mission,” said Irma Compton, of the City’s Human Resources and Risk Management Department.