Police recruitment numbers stay steady as HPD looks for new officers

Published: Oct. 30, 2020 at 7:20 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - The Harrisonburg Police Department has said goodbye to several officers as they retired this year and now they’re looking for more officers to join the force.

Sargeant Chris Watson oversees the hiring and recruitment division at HPD.

“The numbers haven’t decreased as far as working in law enforcement goes,” Watson said. “I looked at the numbers, and they’re remaining steady. People still want to get out and serve their community, even though there is a lot of unrest in the nation itself.”

Watson said Harrisonburg has not experienced civil unrest as other cities have experienced in 2020 and their strong connection with the community draws a lot of officers to the Friendly City.

HPD has implemented several programs to help law enforcement officers, especially new officers, like a mentorship program, which pairs senior officers with new officers just beginning at the training academy.

“I’ve been here for 18 years and I think the mentorship program is a big plus for the department," Watson said. "Like Big Brothers, Big Sisters, you have a big brother or sister to rely on to give you that support you need as you start your law enforcement career.”

The City of Harrisonburg also has an Employee Assistance Program, where Watson said officers can speak to someone confidentially. There is a peer-support team within the department itself, made up of HPD officers.

Watson said getting new officers to join the HPD is competitive because of all the surrounding departments in the Shenandoah Valley.

“HPD is known for its training program,” Watson said. “A lot of the things being talked about in the news as far as reform, we’re currently already implementing those things, so we’re kind of ahead of the program and I think that helps us build relationships with the community.”

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