Firm selected for marketing of Little Rock Police Department

Recruitment campaign part of effort to fill vacant posts

Posted: October 30, 2017 at 4:30 a.m.

Officials have picked a local marketing agency to build a recruitment campaign for the Little Rock Police Department, an effort that's expected to revamp the way the city reaches potential recruits.

Out of 13 proposals received by the city, a five-person selection committee chose Little Rock-based Ghidotti Communications to create a multimedia marketing campaign for the Police Department, said city spokesman Lamor Williams.

The decision from the committee brings the city a step closer to beginning the campaign aimed at filling dozens of persistent officer vacancies within the agency. The committee's recommendation has been signed off on by City Manager Bruce Moore, but funding for the project must be approved by the city's Board of Directors, Williams said.

Williams said the marketing campaign is not expected to exceed $150,000.

The campaign is expected to include advertisements on social media and will be designed to reach recruits within a 250-mile radius of Little Rock, according to a document that laid out the city's request for proposals, which was posted in August. The campaign is also expected to reach out to women and candidates from minority groups in an effort to have the police force better reflect the demographics of the Little Rock community, officials say.

Williams, who served on the selection committee, said competition for the bid was close but that Ghidotti Communications' attention to the target audience ultimately won over the committee.

"During the presentation, we felt like their creative [vision] spoke more to the audience that we really need to reach -- that being minorities and women," Williams said.

Ghidotti Communications is expected to do the recruitment campaign in partnership with Cranford Co., he said. He said the request for proposals did not include cost information.

He said the city did not want a proposal that emphasized the tactical and heavily masculine parts of police work, such as the agency's tactical team.

"We have those people pretty much covered," he said.

Ghidotti Communications' proposal, he said, struck the right balance and put a human face on police officers.

Data as of Sept. 13 show that Little Rock police had 77 sworn officer vacancies within the department, which is authorized for 590 sworn positions. According to the agency's Sept. 13 data, the city had 26 recruits in the training academy, but they were not on patrol and were not sworn law enforcement officers at that time.

Officials say several factors have affected the department's ability to fill the positions, including an improved economy and strong competition from other agencies in state and out of state. Officials have also said changing perceptions of police nationwide are a factor as well, specifically in the wake of a number of officer-involved shootings that ended in the deaths of black men.

Earlier this year, in a comprehensive review, outside consultants from the International Association of Chiefs of Police and a Virginia-based company told Little Rock to overhaul its hiring process and recruiting efforts. Since then, the department has taken steps to revamp those areas.

The agency has tweaked its disqualification standards for police recruits and adjusted its hiring process, which officials say will help retain a higher number of qualified applicants.

Beyond the marketing campaign, the city has plans to create an independent police recruitment website to attract candidates. Police departments across the country have recruitment websites aimed at attracting potential applicants, including agencies in Houston; Memphis; New Orleans; Philadelphia; Portland, Ore.; and San Antonio.

Sgt. Van Thomas, who works in the department's Training Division, said the agency should see a meaningful effect on recruiting with the help of online advertisements and professional brand development.

"This will bring it to a new age," he said, mentioning that he expects the staffing level to be in a much better place a year from now.

Metro on 10/30/2017