Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Harrisburg Police Bureau gains new officers but still struggles to grow its ranks.

Mayor Eric Papenfuse swears in four of the nine new police officers to the Harrisburg Police Bureau in a ceremony held at the State Museum on Thursday morning.

Nine new officers were sworn into the Harrisburg Police Bureau this morning and two top officers were promoted, but police officials are already revising their hiring goals for 2018 to keep up with attrition.

The new hires bring the police ranks to 143 officers, said police Commissioner Thomas Carter.

The bureau initially planned to hire 20 new officers in 2018, but Carter said today that the number will need to be higher. He reported that two officers have resigned this week to take positions in other cities, and he expects additional retirements in months to come.

The bureau employed 142 officers as of October 2017. A police official told a Burg reporter the same month that the city’s full complement is 152 officers.

Carter, who previously served as police chief, was sworn in as commissioner this morning. Mayor Eric Papenfuse said his new title will not change his duties, but more accurately reflects his role as an ambassador to the community. Capt. Derric Moody was sworn in as deputy chief.

Both men said at city budget hearings in December that they hoped to bolster the bureau’s ranks in the new year.

“We’re trying our best,” Carter said about the bureau’s recruitment efforts.

He said that recruiters have attended local job fairs at military bases, colleges and, recently, the state Farm Show Complex.

In recent years, the bureau has pledged to increase its ranks of female and minority officers. PennLive’s Christine Vendel reported that, in 2014, African Americans make up 52 percent of Harrisburg’s population but only 11 percent of its police force. The next year, the bureau changed its hiring practices to give less preference to military veterans, which they hoped would eliminate a hurdle for minority candidates.

Carter said that the bureau has hired two African American officers and three Hispanic officers since changing its hiring practices in 2015. He could not offer current data about the bureau’s demographics, but said he is still committed to hiring minority candidates.

Of the officers sworn in this morning, one of the eight men is African American. The sole woman, who is of Middle Eastern descent, is the bureau’s first Arabic-speaking officer, Carter said.

“We hired the best class we could,” Carter said of the new officers.

In his remarks during the ceremony, he said their diverse skills and professional experiences would enrich the police force.

The nine officers sworn in this morning included three military veterans, one Capitol Police veteran, and one officer who has already served with police forces in New Jersey, Virginia and Pennsylvania. The new officers hold among them college degrees in nursing, criminal justice and automotive collision repair and refinishing.

The new recruits will complete almost eight months of training at the Police Academy and with the bureau before they can patrol the streets independently. The bureau plans to hire another class of at least 11 officers in July, Carter said.

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