Effingham Police Chief Jason McFarland, left, and Deputy Chief Kurt Davis, far left, receive a check for $5,000 for new exercise equipment from School Resource Officer Scott Volpi, right, and Sgt. Josh Douthit, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 209 in Effingham. The new equipment is part of an effort by EPD to attract potential recruits to police work in the city.

EFFINGHAM — As the result of a shrinking pool of recruits, the Effingham Police Department has formed a committee in order to find better ways to recruit potential applicants.

Chief Jason McFarland said the department is fully staffed at the moment, which he thinks is uncommon for law enforcement agencies like his. However, with police work and law enforcement under increasing scrutiny thanks to a series of officer-involved shootings and civil unrest, he’s finding that fewer and fewer people are interested in a career with a police department.

“Nobody wants to be in a job where if you’re doing your job correctly — within the confines of law and policy — you can be criminally charged,” McFarland said.

As a result, a group of rank-and-file officers have formulated a series of suggestions to try and bring more people into police work and to Effingham, in particular. One key step is a new website designed to promote the department and the city itself, https://epdrecruiting.com. The website isn’t perfect — it’s not ideally set up for mobile use at the moment — but it’s the first step toward modernizing the department’s approach to recruiting and retaining officers and employees.

“We’re advertising for three months when we should be advertising constantly,” McFarland said. “This allows somebody to stop at the page and go, ‘Hey, this looks really cool. Here’s an email, let me know when you’re testing.’ We generate people that are interested in the job year-round.”

In addition, the department will send officers to local universities with law enforcement programs to promote the department. McFarland said the department will try to branch out to places like the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and Carbondale campuses and Northwestern University in Evanston, to name a few.

“We have officers that have attended every university in this area,” McFarland said.

One other suggestion will become tangible in the coming months, as the committee wanted a new set of exercise equipment for officers and employees to use. With some departments offering hiring bonuses to sweeten any potential contract with an employee, McFarland and his officers wanted something that would benefit people beyond just getting them into the job.

“Instead of spending money trying to get somebody just to apply, why not spend funds and invest in something that will benefit everybody and attract those (people) to the department?” McFarland said.

In total, the equipment will cost around $19,000, with $5,000 coming from the city’s Fraternal Order of Police lodge. The department is partnering with Houston-based company ProMAXima Strength and Conditioning, which provides gym equipment for police departments, fire departments, military and schools throughout the country.

McFarland praised the officers from the lodge for coming together and getting the money needed to help make the new exercise equipment a reality. He noted the new equipment will provide for better physical and mental health for all officers, giving them a 24-hour way to keep themselves in shape and provide the best police work possible.

“Being in shape is huge,” McFarland said. “Healthy and fit employees are less prone to on-job injuries. We have a very physical and demanding job at times. There’s times in which you’re wrestling with people or climbing over fences and who knows whatever else. The physical health also goes hand in hand with the mental health.”

Zach Roth can be reached at zach.roth@effinghamdailynews.com or by phone at (217) 347-7151 ext. 132 or (217) 899-4338.

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Reporter, Effingham Daily News

Reporter for the Effingham Daily News, covering city government, local business and state representatives.