LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - Nationwide law enforcement and the military are having a tough time recruiting and retaining great personnel. The result is leaving departments competing for the best.
In 2017, facing a spike in violent crime and a shortage of officers, Little Rock police started offering a five thousand dollar hiring bonus to new officers. By the end of last year, the department had also modified its disqualification standards to help retain a larger number of qualified recruits. This week, they announced another possible change, this one regarding personal appearance.
"We are constantly competing with other departments for new recruits,” said LRPD Officer, Steve Moore.
After a long and highly publicized process, Little Rock police are now fully staffed. However, keeping it that way is difficult. Officer Moore says the PD has several retirements coming up, prompting them to consider some changes when it comes to personal appearance.
"When I started, there was no way you would consider anybody having facial hair in uniform as a police officer, but it's a different time,” he said. "I've seen other agencies that have facial hair and they still look professional. That will just be the key, is having somebody monitor the officers that do that to make sure that facial hair is within policy. We will have to come up with a policy that defines how long your hair will be, how long the facial hair will be, things of that nature, and you'll have to make sure that's enforced."
While you may not see any handlebar mustaches at LRPD, you might see tattoos on officers, as the department is also considering changing its tattoo policy.
"The sleeves, as you call them, if you have tattoos all the way down to your wrist, they have to be covered either by a long-sleeved shirt or the sleeves that are used for covering tattoos,” Officer Moore explained. “Both of those, I'm sure, during the summer in Arkansas are very hot. Right now, that's one we are still going to be looking at."
Conway and Sherwood police don't allow visible tattoos on officers, while the Saline County Sheriff's Office allows tattoos from elbow to wrist, as long as they aren't a sleeve. Pulaski County and Benton both allow tattoos.
Conway, Saline County, Benton and Sherwood all allow officers to have a mustache only, while Pulaski County has a no facial hair policy. Each of those departments' spokesperson told me they haven't had to loosen any requirements to secure recruits.
"If you want a goatee, you want a beard and that other department has that, that may be the thing that sends you over the edge to go there as opposed to coming to Little Rock. It's something we've got to consider. As times change, people change, and does what people think is professional and what's not,” Officer Moore said finally.
LRPD is going to test the looser facial hair requirements during no-shave November, for cancer awareness. Officer Moore says if that works out, the next step will be the tattoo policy.
Also this week, Memphis, the closest big city, announced new recruits no longer need a college degree but will be required to get an associate degree within the first four years of employment.
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