Douglas County Sheriff’s Office newest academy class sees more diversity

WOWT 6 News Live at 10
Published: Dec. 21, 2021 at 10:32 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office is yet again pushing for more new hires. They announced Monday $5,000 hiring incentives for pre-certified law enforcement officers.

As they look to hire more deputies, they’re hoping to continue to diversify their force, especially after receiving backlash this summer for a graduating class of deputies that were all white men.

“Our community wants to see a law enforcement agency that reflects them,” says Chief Deputy Wayne Hudson. “Also, diversity is good. When you’re looking a diversity of gender, diversity of culture, diversity of ethnicity, with those come diversity of thought.”

Since June’s graduating class, Hudson says the agency has made big strides to recruit applicants of color and female applicants.

“We’ve done a number of things to try to attract more female and minority officers to our agency, for example, we put advertising on city buses that go through typically minority communities because we want to try to draw more individuals to take the test,” he says.

The office has also been speaking with local churches, encouraging congregations to apply. The biggest change, however, has been a resource that’s new to the office.

“We hired a minority consulting company to come in and look at our testing and interview process, so what they did for us was they did test prep and interview prep,” Hudson says. “Well, what we’ve seen in this last class is that our diversity numbers went up.”

The class heading to the academy has 10 people, five of which are part of minority groups.

“We have three females, one of which is African American, and that’s probably the second time in about 70 years that we’ve had two African American females on the agency at one time. I know that we have at least two Hispanic males, too. So for our numbers to have that much diversity in one class, that’s totally different than what we typically have.”

Chief Deputy Hudson also adds that this next push for applicants comes as they prepare for several deputies to retire. It’s also as they get ready for the new juvenile justice center to open in 2023.

“When we first hire a deputy, it’s eight months or so before that deputy is ready to be used on their own, so knowing that the juvenile justice center is going to open up sometime in early 2023, we have to hire, train, and have those deputies ready now,” he says.

Hudson says the new center could occupy between five and eight deputies at any given time.

“So we’re still looking at the current workload for the juvenile justice judges, but another thing we’re looking at is if they’re in a new facility, will there be new procedures, will there be more hearings? Because all the juveniles are located in one location, so if that is the case then, if they’re in custody, we will have to have a deputy there present with them at all times.”

And as an incentive, the sheriff’s office announced a $5,000 hiring bonus for some applicants.

“Right now there’s other agencies offering incentives for pre-certified law enforcement officers, so we really need to keep up with every other agency around here, and how that helps us out is that we don’t have to send that individual to a training academy, so we can get them trained a lot faster by doing on the job training, and get them into the community, protecting the community a lot faster.”

The office currently has around 129 sworn deputies, and to be at full strength, they need 137. Hudson says that gap doesn’t impact their response times, and never will.

“One thing that we never go short on is our patrol division, that is the tip of the spear for every law enforcement agency so if we have to move bodies around to make sure our patrol is staffed, that’s what we’ll do. So the community is never impacted by anything that goes on in our agency when it comes to a shortfall of deputies.”

Hudson says a constant struggle is competing with surrounding law enforcement agencies for deputies and officers. It’s another reason why they’re offering a hiring incentive.

“We don’t lose people to Grand Junction or Kansas or something, but I will lose them to the Omaha Police Department of the Bellevue Police Department so what we’re asking the county is when they negotiate with our union, is to really look at our competing agencies because we have some really bright, talented people here and what I don’t want to do is be the training ground for other agencies, so we have to increase their pay, tweak their benefits, so we can retain our best and our brightest.”

As another form of recruitment, Hudson says the office is hoping to launch a program with Omaha Public Schools and Metropolitan Community College. Their goal is to connect with Northwest High’s career academy for criminal justice and work to encourage students to then go to Metro’s Criminal Justice program while working a day or two with the sheriff’s office.

This tool would be a ‘school to employment pipeline’ and will encourage young adults to strongly consider careers in law enforcement in their communities.

You can apply to be part of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office team online.

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