OSWEGO – Oswego Police Ofc. Steve Bailey said he didn't always want to be in law enforcement, despite his father being a police officer. He said he wanted to become a personal trainer.
Then the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 in New York City happened, Bailey said. He was in college at the time and, after talking with his father, he ended up deciding to pursue a career as a cop and to go through the testing process with the support of both of his parents.
Bailey said he has been at Oswego Police Department for more than 16 years.
“I have no regrets by any means,” Bailey said.
Oswego police officials are closing in on the last few days of a hiring campaign aimed to better diversify a potential hiring pool whenever any department job openings come up. Those recruiting efforts are especially focused on potential applicants identifying with minority groups especially, who may not have previously considered a career in law enforcement but would fit the qualifications and spirit of the job, according to police.
Oswego Police Chief Jeff Burgner said it's more important than ever to come up with innovative ways to recruit police officers. He said police are seeing opportunity in it not being all that uncommon for generations coming up now to consider career changes and finding different interests.
"It's getting more challenging to get people to want to be police officers," Burgner said.
Burgner said he thinks the department is fortunate that the local sentiment toward police is supportive as a whole. He said people might think twice about becoming a police officer after seeing national stories about police-involved deaths.
Oswego Dep. Police Chief Brad Delphey said the police department would traditionally hold these type of recruiting activities in person. However, he said, the department had to switch gears in outreach approach amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It's ... worked very well, since anything in person hasn't been happening in the last couple of months," Delphey said.
Burgner said the department is keeping an eye on updates from police academies about what classroom and other training will look like going forward in the pandemic. He said the plan is also to keep updated state and local health guidance in consideration throughout the testing process.
"It's definitely created some new challenges, but we're going to find work arounds that we can work with within that guidance," Burgner said.
Bailey said sometimes otherwise good police candidates may not realize what the job may fully entail, including working midnights or holidays or how the exposure to some calls or situations affects them.
"This job isn't for everybody, but hopefully we can find that person that is as good of a fit for [the department] as it is for the community as well," Bailey said.
Bailey said he personally agrees that Oswego Police Department takes a community-oriented approach to policing, meaning community members have a good relationship with officers but police also have a good understanding of what the department's job standards are. Not everything has to result in a ticket and police can be used as a good support resource for the community, including for counseling or mental health needs, he said.
However, Bailey said, he agrees being a police officer has gotten harder and the job has changed within the last 15 years or so – which makes it all the more important to have the village's different ideologies and different ethnic backgrounds adequately represented in its police force.
"It makes not only for a great department, but a great community," Bailey said.
Burgner's and Bailey's comments related to the department's campaign meant to build and diversify the department's hiring eligibility list came more than a week before Burgner's, among others' in local law enforcement, comments in reaction to widespread video footage of George Floyd's arrest in Minneapolis. Floyd, 46, died May 25 after saying he couldn't breathe as Minneapolis Police Ofc. Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck and officers pinned Floyd to the ground for at least seven minutes by the rear wheel of a police car.
Jenette Sturges, spokeswoman for the Village of Oswego, said there have been at least 250 applications submitted so far for hiring consideration, should any job openings within the department arise. Sturges said there are no job openings with the department currently as of Monday, June 1.
Those who may be considering a career in law enforcement in Oswego have until noon Wednesday, June 3 to apply for the eligibility list, according to the Oswego Police Department recruitment website.