Now hiring: Bellevue police recruits from all walks of life

While some outreach is focused on the martial arts community, BPD seeks any qualified applicant.

The Bellevue Police Department (BPD) is in the middle of a staff shortage, along with nearly every other department in the nation, which requires recruiters to reach out to previously untapped communities.

Officer Craig Hanaumi, well-known in the community for his skateboarding with teens outreach, is BPD’s top recruiter and leading the way in recruiting from Washington’s jiu-jitsu community.

“There’s no way the number of qualified applicants [across the nation] can fill the vacancies,” Hanaumi said. “The people who this career is a calling for, there’s not enough of them.”

BPD has recently tweeted multiple times about their search for new hires and have been specifically mentioning the martial arts and fitness communities as sources of potential recruits.

Officer Chad Cummings, a BPD recruiter, clarified that while martial arts and fitness enthusiasts make for good police recruits, potential applicants only need an interest in law enforcement to apply.

“We travel all over the place to try and recruit,” he said. “It’s more about your life experience… Overall we’re just looking for people with good character who are interested in serving their community. Prior law enforcement experience is not a requirement at all, nor is martial arts.”

“Many [new hires] don’t have any martial arts background, which is fine,” Hanaumi added. “I’m biased because I train, but jiu-jitsu is a little bit unique from other martial arts that don’t have sparring… It’s similar to another combative sport like boxing. If a person does boxing for competition, not just exercise, they too would have a realistic idea of what they can do and what can be done to them in a setting that is close to a real fight in a controlled environment. That’s a huge advantage.”

Currently, the BPD is understaffed by 16 positions, according to Cummings. The department still maintains a full patrol staff, which is a top priority, but the shortage makes it more difficult for many departments to maintain community outreach positions.

Hanaumi said that a police department is going to usually choose a full patrol staff over maintaining outreach positions, which is an overall loss for the community.

“People say they want to see more of the outreach, and I love doing it,” Hanaumi said. “But the problem is we can’t have a position that has more time devoted to those kinds of things if we don’t have enough people for patrol. And patrol can still do outreach, but they can’t devote a half-hour or hour to community events.”

Hanaumi began posting police activities and positive police interactions with locals on social media, including his Instagram account @craighanaumi, about two years ago after he saw an large amount of negative content regarding police officers on social media.

“Given the environment around law enforcement right now, it’s not as popular as it used to be,” Cummings said. “So we’re having a harder time getting people who are even interested in the position, let alone qualified applicants.”

“I get to do things that bring people in the community together and that aspect was not being shared at all, at least for me,” Hanaumi added. “I’m not going to say that there are no bad things that happen, I’m just saying that it’s disproportionate… it’s not even close.”

BPD officers have been the center several incidents reported over the years, including two members of the command staff who were demoted for an extramarital affair in 2013, three officers who were ejected from a Seahawks game in 2012 as reported by The Seattle Times and more recently the assault allegations this year against former officer John Kivlin and unknown allegations against Chief Steve Mylett, who is on paid administrative leave.

Kivlin was recently released from jail after some charges against him were amended, KING-TV reports, and Mylett denies the still unknown allegations that Bothell police are investigating.

Hanaumi’s outreach focuses on the small contrasting things that Bellevue officers do everyday within the community and are completely unreported.

“The average officer is not the kind of person who is looking to share or digitally capture good moments,” Hanaumi said. “They’ll save somebody’s life and they won’t even tell their own coworkers… We don’t do a good enough job of sharing the good things that happen… we look at [those things] as something we just do every day.”

The BPD allows its officers to post their interactions to social media, which isn’t true for other departments. According to Hanaumi, many other departments don’t allow their officers to post anything in uniform on social media.

Hanaumi said he feels fortunate to serve a department and community that allows him to share the positive side of police interactions. His posts have received a large amount of positive feedback from the Bellevue community.

“The most common feedback is positive and then the follow-up is [people] asking to know more about this kind of thing,” Hanaumi said.

Hanaumi’s community outreach and social media presence has gathered him more than 34,000 followers on Instagram. He often posts about skateboarding, jiu-jitsu and training at the BPD.

The staffing shortage has lead to a large amount of competition between police departments for new hires. According to Cummings, police work is generally the same everywhere, with the communities being the biggest difference, so departments must work to distinguish themselves from their competitors.

“Everyone in the area is hiring, there’s a lot of growth in our city as well as a boom with the economy,” Cummings said. “We’re competing not only with other police agencies, but we’re also competing with the private sector as well.”

The competition is what initially led Hanaumi to reach out to the jiu-jitsu community for applicants.

“We have to do more. Every person who is a potential applicant, who is qualified, we need them,” Hanaumi said. “Jiu-jitsu to me is one route. Since that’s my passion and my interest, I’m going to take full advantage — I mean, why not? If we can get one or two people from that community, that’s one or two people more than we would have had, and we need more than one or two people.”

Hanaumi added that while police departments can accept lateral hires from other departments, that perpetuates the nation-wide shortage.

The problem is complex and the need for new officers is rising as the Puget Sound region continues to see a population boom. For now, Hanaumi and Cummings continue to serve their communities and reach out for new hires.

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