For the first time in six years, the Cincinnati Police Department is recruiting a “lateral class” of officers — a group that goes through an abbreviated academy training period of 12 weeks rather than the 28 most recruits complete.
The goal is fight a widespread recruiting shortage by getting new officers out on the street faster, said public information officer Emily Szink. Cincinnati’s police force is 120 officers short of full capacity.
“We need people,” said Officer Nicholas Davis, who was part of Cincinnati’s last lateral class. “We’re hurting for officers.”
Just like Davis and the officers who joined alongside him in 2014, members of the incoming lateral class will be people who have at least two years of experience working with another law enforcement agency. Szink said that experience allows CPD to move them through the academy faster.
“Having a lateral class is a much quicker way than just having a regular recruit class to get men and women onto the force,” she said.
Davis said it also represented an opportunity for him when he joined, having served with the smaller Newtown Police Department for six years.
“My old department was a very small department,” he said. “The opportunities for advancement, as in promotion or just specialized units, was something that wasn’t offered to me just because of the size.”
Covington police Chief Robert Nader expects his own department to be short-staffed this fall. Longtime officers are retiring, others are leaving for different career fields, and few new recruits are putting their names in for consideration.
He partially blames the sharp public scrutiny that accompanied widespread protests against fatal police shootings in 2020.
“If you played for a sports league and they said the entire league wasn't doing well, and they keep repeating it over and over daily, nightly, everything what you watch, it's going to be hard for someone to want to join that league,” he said Thursday.
Nader said he hopes that people in Covington will see its officers defying negative stereotypes and continuing to help their community, building confidence by doing good work in a transparent way.
“I think we are just trying to maintain our public trust,” he said. “That could be through our state and CALEA (Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies) accreditation, maintaining the best practices to say, ‘Hey, we’re doing things the best way.’ And it isn’t us deciding or our local leaders deciding, it’s a third party that comes in and says, ‘This is the best way to run your police department.’
“We still maintain our body cams. That maintains the trust so people know that we also observe what we’re doing out there on the field.”
Despite the struggle to recruit, Nader said he believes in law enforcement and the people who do it. He’s hopeful other people curious about police work will see it his way, too.
“You get to help people and I think people have forgot that,” he said. “Most days, you’re problem solving.”