Sgt. Manmeet Colon has observed fewer and fewer local faces on the police force—so she showed up in the Hill to pitch prospective cops.
That pitch, meant to counter “concerns for public safety” with people who know and often grew up in the area, took place at the most recent Hill South Community Management Team meeting at Betsy Ross Magnet School.
As part of a community-wide effort, Colon asked the meeting’s 25 attendees to get the word out by talking to youth, store owners, school teachers, and recent graduates that might be interested in joining the New Haven Police Department (NHPD).
“People are getting the word around, and that’s what we need,” she said. “We want people to talk to their sons, their daughters, their nephews and nieces and tell them that the New Haven Police Department is hiring.”
“We need them [new, local recruits] to be our spokespeople for the community,” she added. She pointed to the importance of cops who both know the neighbors, families, and occasional troublemakers on their beats—and have a personal tie to where they come from.
A five-member team of officers working under Colon’s supervision is knocking on doors in the city’s 10 policing districts. Lingering at small businesses, citywide events, and New Haven’s library branches in Dixwell and the Hill. Visiting fitness centers and community management team meetings. Showing up at graduations and career fairs as kids try to figure out their professional futures, and staying afterward to schmooze with parents.
It’s an uphill battle, said Colon at the meeting. There’s a lot of anti-police stigma in New Haven, she said. In recent years, the department has also struggled with rookie cops leaving the force for other, neighboring departments like North Haven and Madison that pay more. While a similar campaign kicked off last summer, Sgt. Colon said this year’s is “10 times bigger,” with strong efforts to talk to community members face to face.
Working with her are Detective Lynn Meekins and officers Jinett Marte, Jasmine Sanders, Joshua Smereczynsky, Matthew Williams and Yelena Borisova. After presenting at the meeting, Colon added that the recruits who graduated last week helped with door hangers and pavement pounding before they graduated.
This year, the five officers aren’t just letting people know the recruitment requirements — 21 years of age or older, with a high school diploma, U.S. citizenship, and no felony or sexual assault charges — as the outreach campaign did last year. Colon has started active Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram campaigns, and is collaborating with her fellow team members to walk each of the city’s neighborhoods, one policing district at a time.
In District Seven (East Rock, Newhallville, and Cedar Hill) cops are completing their door-knocking campaign, in which they leave literature at each home and talk to whoever opens a door, or passes them on the pavement.
In Dixwell, they’ve set up temporary residence at the Stetson branch of the New Haven Free Public Library, where they planned to reconvene from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, during this year’s Freddy Fixer parade. The previous weekend, Detective Meekins and Officer Sanders were there during the Health & Wellness Fair at the Dixwell Plaza.
And in the Hill, where officers have not yet knocked on doors but are planning to “in the next few weeks,” Colon and Meekins have been talking to store customers and local business owners, seeing if they can leave literature at the front of their stores. Colon recalled one clerk who was especially open to the idea, because more locals on the force means more people who know his business, what it adds to the community, and who might target it.
They’re also stressing a local perk that the department offers: 10 residency points, added to the averaged score of potential officers’ written and oral examinations. With several over-street banners, large billboards, and appearances planned at Southern Connecticut State University’s graduation, drills at the U.S. Army station in Norwich, and Fair Haven’s annual River Fest, Colon and other team members are hoping more New Haveners will flock to the force.
“We’ll be visible,” she said. “By the time June 23 comes, I think everyone in New Haven should know that the New Haven Police Department is hiring.”
She added that there is no precise number of recruits that the department is looking for this year. “Usually, 25 to 30 is a safe number to say,” she said, but the department has entertained the possibility of up to 35.
For potential applicants, Colon wrote the following in an email after the meeting: “The application period will be followed by physical ability testing, scheduled on July 8-9, 2017. Those that have satisfied the ability testing component will be scheduled for the written examination on July 15, 2017. The oral boards will then follow as the last civil service testing component on July 22-23, 2017.”