PHILADELPHIA, PA — The summer recruitment campaign to hire new Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) officers generated a 42 percent increase in the number of individuals who applied for acceptance into the Police Academy compared to the last two recruitment periods (March 2023 and December 2022). Between June 9 and July 16, 2023, a total of 2,173 people submitted an online application; the March 2023 campaign resulted in 1,260 applicants and December’s saw 1,210.
A joint effort between the Philadelphia Police Department, the Managing Director’s Office and Department of Human Resources, this summer’s campaign strategy additionally led to an increase in the number of minority applicants. While approximately 35 percent chose not to share their race, 80 percent of those who did identify with a minority group, compared to 74 percent in March 2023.
The campaign’s success may be attributed to an expanded duration, new robust digital strategy, and historic investment in recruitment efforts. The $1 million City Council designated for recruitment efforts at the end of the 2022-2023 fiscal year was a first-time investment by Council for a police recruitment campaign.
“Philadelphia is experiencing the same challenges as most police departments across the country struggling to fill their ranks,” said City Council President Darrell L. Clarke (5th District). “We know the shortage of police officers can affect public safety. The Philadelphia Police Department’s previous budget didn’t allow them to invest advertising dollars in new digital strategies, so we in Council wanted to support and get behind their recruitment efforts. We’re glad the campaign resulted in a significant jump in applications, and we hope, more recruits entering the Police Academy.”
The added investment by City Council is considered the key factor for the significant rise in applications, according to the City’s Human Resources Director Michael Zaccagni, who noted, “City Council’s investment allowed the City to use a new blend of platforms and tactics to reach the demographic of individuals they hope to recruit for the police force, and, for the first time, they could test new social media tactics and expand digital out-of-home advertising (DOOH) to guide the fall campaign.”
The increasingly popular and effective DOOH advertising strategy includes using digital billboards and outdoor signage to reach potential PPD applicants during their daily routines and lives, such as digital ads placed at gas stations, retail stores, inside elevators, in ride-share vehicles and taxis, and many other environments seen by the public in their day-to-day travels. Newspapers, Public Service Announcements (PSAs), and promotions to reach the predominantly Black and Latinx target market were a significant portion of the campaign budget, in addition to a deluge of SEPTA transit ads.
Radio ads were also a component of the campaign’s emphasis on recruiting a diverse pool of applicants. The City ran ads on local radio stations, including WURD, iHeartMedia, Urban One, and Radio One stations (La Mega, WPPZ, and WRNB). The radio campaigns included PSAs and interviews on popular programs so current officers could share their own experiences and provide information about the non-traditional types of positions offered at the PPD.
City Council President Clarke said an overwhelming majority of City Council supported the decision to use funds available at the end of the 2022-2023 budget year to implement a campaign before the new fiscal year. City Council has appropriated $3 million in fiscal year 2024 for new recruitment campaigns for hard-to-hire public safety positions.
“As we continue to respond to the gun violence and crime plaguing Philadelphia, we have a critical need for more officers to join the ranks of the City’s finest law enforcement professionals,” said Philadelphia Police Department Commissioner Danielle Outlaw. “We have incredible officers but there are not enough of them given we are the 4th largest police department in the country. As the department continues its commitments to crime prevention and reduction, community engagement and inclusion, and organizational excellence, we hope to attract high-quality candidates who will join us and help meet our goals.”
The spring-summer campaign focused on the Philadelphia region including parts of New Jersey and Delaware, and targeted five zip codes (19121, 19122, 19133, 19134, 19140) where potential candidates that fit the priority demographic tend to reside. Display ads appearing on mobile devices and computers based on websites and apps the target market visit had the highest number of impressions (the number of times an ad is seen) while social media platforms, including YouTube, TikTok, and Facebook, performed at a high rate, driving the most “apply now” clicks.
Planning for the fall campaign is underway using data and lessons learned from the successful summer campaign. This planning period allows the PPD to conduct several listening sessions to obtain input about what does motivate people to apply to be part of the force. A new campaign theme and updated ads will be created using funds designated by City Council in the City’s new 2023-2024 budget.
“We were excited to learn that City Council will continue to designate funds this year to help recruit more police officers, and additional funds will be used to implement tactics and successful approaches that worked in the recent campaign to develop new strategies to fill the many open security and safety positions,” said Managing Director Tumar Alexander.