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Toledo Police seek diversity in 2021 Cadet Class

By La Prensa Staff

 

Toledo Police recruiters are reaching out to the black and Latino communities, hoping to secure a 2021 cadet class that better reflects the community at-large in the wake of recent racial tensions in the city and nationwide. But the coronavirus pandemic is presenting a second challenge to those outreach efforts, limiting recruiters to virtual presentations with specific audiences.

 

“We look forward to this kind of challenge. We know every day we’re going to come out here and have an uphill battle, but we’re having a lot of fun with it and we’re meeting a lot of good candidates and a lot of good people in the community who are our voice trying to reach people when we can’t,” said Sgt. Mike Kurjan, who heads the three-member TPD recruiting team. “We’re trying to take the negative and turn it into a positive to reach more people.”

 

The recruiting team admits this is a tough time to try to draw people to a law enforcement career, with national headlines focused on officer-involved shootings and fatal incidents of police brutality. Some of those deaths have sparked protests and violence across the country. Toledo saw its own share of demonstrations earlier in 2020, the worst damage being broken windows.

 

“We’re lucky here in Toledo. We do have a good relationship with our community. I’m not saying our department is perfect. We have taken time to forge those relationships, so I think that is working to our advantage,” said Sgt. Kurjan.

 

Until a recent spike in COVID-19 cases, TPD recruiters were able to attend events such as the Brown-Black Unity Coalition peace rally held in the UAW Local #12 parking lot in October.

The recruiting unit hopes to attract enough qualified candidates to fill a 31-person academy class that would start training in the late summer of 2021.

 

“We’ve been lucky the community has been so welcoming to us, because we share the same goal,” said Sgt. Kurjan. “Both sides want to create a diverse police force that represents (the makeup of) our community.”

 

While recruitment numbers won’t be available until after recruitment ends Dec. 31, 2020, the team points out attendance at recent testing sessions shows a good number of police recruits of color.

 

“I think this is a good opportunity to reach more people who look like me, to get out there and be the image of the department,” said Officer Geoffrey McLendon, the lone African-American member of the TPD recruitment team. “I can show that there are African-Americans who represent the department and give people hope that they can join this job. My goal is to be the image of the people who look like me, so that they can see ‘Hey, you can do this job, too.’”

 

“This is a great job to be that change in your community, that positive impact,” echoed Office Stephen Bates, the third member of the recruiting unit. “I’m from Toledo. I love Toledo and working for my city and being that positive role model and making that positive difference in the lives of many is just awesome. It pretty much has me hooked and now I’m trying to take that message and tell other people about it. This is a great job and very rewarding.”

 

Both officers left patrol duties for the temporary recruiting assignment, partially to bring their perspectives to the recruiting process. They can speak firsthand to recruits about some of the hurdles they faced and offer advice. They successfully got funding to waive the $55 testing fee for Toledo residents—some of whom may not be able to afford the expense during the pandemic. One of the only national testing sites is located at Owens Community College. The recruitment team convinced the testing service to locate in-person testing in Toledo, closer to some recruits.

 

TPD also raised the age requirement to 40 years old for police academy recruits, hoping to draw more potential cadets with military experience. Sgt. Kurjan emphasized those recruits have some relevant “life experience” they can bring to the job as police officers.

 

A 25-member class began the police academy Oct. 30. A class of the same size had been planned for 2021, but a $750,000 grant afforded the department an opportunity to add six additional slots in 2021. TPD has struggled to keep up with replacing retirements in recent years. Department numbers currently sit at 611 sworn officers, but the goal is to grow those ranks closer to 700.

 

Time is running short on the current recruiting window, which ends Dec. 31. There is a two-part application process at the website, https://tpdhire.com. Once applicants fill out a registration sheet, they must also schedule a test on the site through the National Testing Network.

 

One more round of in-person testing will be held in late December. Interested recruits can get questions answered or get more information by emailing tpdrecruitment@toledo.oh.gov.

 

 

 

 

 
Copyright © 1989 to 2020 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 12/01/20 20:04:19 -0800.

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