The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary has announced a major overhaul of its eligibility requirements for new officers that it hopes will attract more applicants.
Potential recruits will no longer be required to have completed certain university courses in order to apply, and the one-year cadet training program has been cut in half, with cadets being paid during the training period.
Going forward, applicants must have a year of post-secondary training but it can also be at the college level, and it will not be necessary for them to have completed the program.
The major shakeup to a recruiting program that has been in place for the past dozen years is in response to a decline in applications to the force, said Insp. Alex Brennan.
"For many years we've listened to citizens talk about I can't afford to do one year university. I can't afford to be engaged in a training program that goes on for over a year without an income," said Brennan, a 22-year veteran of the RNC.
"The chief of police has listened to what the concerns of people are. We want to make sure we get enough applicants because to be honest with you, we're not getting enough applicants."
The changes coincide with the launch of a recruiting blitz for the redesigned police recruit program, with a goal of accepting 30-35 recruits by the March 31 deadline.
Those recruits will do their six months of cadet training at the RNC's training centre in St. John's, where they will be paid an hourly wage of $15, beginning in January 2019.
Once hired full-time by the RNC, officers will receive a starting constable's salary of roughly $51,000, which will increase to $85,000 by Year 5.
Historically, potential RNC recruits were required to have completed university courses such as psychology and sociology before being considered for the diploma in police studies program at Memorial University.
That's no longer a requirement for the RNC, though MUN will continue to offer the diploma program.
So is the force lowering its standards?
Brennan said that's not the case. He said applicants must still pass the same rigorous screening process, including physical and psychological testing.
He said the selection process is very competitive, and the intention of the changes is to attract a larger pool of applicants.
"This is a time for change. This is a time for any man or woman who wanted to be a police officer to reconsider us, to come in and talk with us," said Brennan, adding that most police forces across Canada, and the military, are dealing with a decline in applications.
Looking for people who 'can think on their feet'
Brennan said the RNC is seeking hardworking, honest and dependable individuals who have high ethics and a motivation for making the community a safer, healthier place to live.
"We are after people who have the ability to analyze, the ability to be able to think on their feet," he said.
"The ability to be agile enough to change [from] one call, where you could be dealing with a very complex crime where you have to think your way through things, to the next call where you could be dealing with someone in a mental health crisis."
The RNC is comprised of 292 male and 109 female members, with officers stationed in St. John's, Corner Brook and Labrador West.