CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) – Modern problems require modern solutions, so the city of Champaign wants to bring police recruitment into the 21st century.

“This is a very challenging time to be hiring police officers,” Communications Manager Jeff Hamilton said.

Tuesday night, City Council decided to work with a private firm to design a digital marketing campaign that will attract new officers. The money was set aside for that purpose years ago, but the project was put on the back-burner once the pandemic hit. Since then, the department has become more strained by a staffing shortage. Although they’ve been rebounding, city officials say there’s still work left to do.

“How do we catch the attention of those who may be interested in a career in law enforcement and convince them that Champaign police is the place for them?” Hamilton said.

City leaders have been asking those questions as more officers retire and fewer apply to the force. Hamilton said over the past year, they realized they needed some outside help.

Their new hiring strategy? Targeted digital marketing.

“On computers and probably social media to try to find those people who may be interested in a career in law enforcement,” he said.

Plus, a 30-second promotional video. City Council members voted unanimously to enter a $69,000 contract with california-based company All-Star Talent Inc. to design a recruitment campaign.

“They’ve done this for about 25 different police agencies across the country, from Atlanta to California,” Hamilton said.

After facing a significant staffing shortage, the department hired 22 officers last year. They were especially successful in hiring experienced officers, but there are still 17 vacancies – and they’re hoping for a diverse candidate pool to choose from.

“In particular, we’d like to see more minorities and females apply to join our force,” Hamilton said.

Fittingly, All-Star Talent is a female, minority-owned business. Here’s how it’ll work: first, Hamilton said consultants will meet with department staff to “understand the culture.”

“What kind of people would be a good fit to work with our organization? What kind of opportunities can we offer?” he said.

From that information, they’ll develop an advertising plan.

“They [potential recruits] may not be in Champaign,” Hamilton said. “They may be across the state or even in a different state.”

One reason the department is making recruitment a priority: community engagement.

“And have more proactive details out on the streets than we are currently able to do with our current staffing numbers,” he said.

The resolution states if the recruitment campaign is successful, more funding could be requested to extend it.