Crime

Diversity Job Fair for Tacoma police draws 52 law-enforcement hopefuls

Sarah Bucher of Tacoma grimaces while doing push-ups as Tacoma police officer Cory Smith monitors the exercise during the Diversity Job Fair at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Tacoma on Saturday. The department, which is about 87 percent white, is looking for more diverse recruits.
Sarah Bucher of Tacoma grimaces while doing push-ups as Tacoma police officer Cory Smith monitors the exercise during the Diversity Job Fair at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Tacoma on Saturday. The department, which is about 87 percent white, is looking for more diverse recruits. Staff photographer

Sarah Bucher, 33, has always thought she’d make a good police officer.

She spent two years in the Air Force, she’s physically fit and she has a passion for serving the community.

“I want to feel like I’m actually making a difference and contributing somehow,” Bucher said. “I think that is a basic human need. ... If I am physically capable, I’d love to do that.”

Bucher, a Tacoma resident, was one of 52 people who attended the Tacoma Police Department’s first Diversity Job Fair on Saturday at Tacoma’s Bethlehem Baptist Church.

The deadline to apply for the department’s next round of hiring is Aug. 22, and more than 1,300 applicants are expected, said department spokeswoman Loretta Cool. There are currently only two openings, but the department could hire 20 or more people from the pool over the next two years, Cool said.

The Diversity Job Fair is the latest step by department officials, as their job fair announcement read, “to bring in a wider selection of candidates who better represent the community.”

According to the department, 65 percent of Tacoma residents are white, compared with 87 percent of the police force.

“We are better than others, but there is always room for improvement,” said Sgt. Jennifer Mueller.

Bucher, who is of Korean descent, said, “I’m not so focused on what the community sees me as, more on what I feel like I can offer.”

Bucher tried previously to apply for a position in the Tacoma Police Department, but says she found the application process confusing. She heard about Saturday’s job fair from a friend and was glad she attended.

More than a dozen officers were on hand to answer questions, let visitors try on uniforms and gear, and give them tips on the testing process.

Christina Chon, hired by the department in March, spent most of the three hours next to a blue mat where she demonstrated good push-up and sit-up form.

Chon, also of Korean heritage, started the testing process last summer as debate intensified regarding the relationship between law enforcement and minorities. She knows she’s entering a heavily scrutinized profession but says this is a good time to become an officer.

“Now is a good time to change the perception,” Chon said. “If you are a positive person and you have that positive energy and you are able to talk to people and are compassionate, now is a good time because that’s what we need to portray more of.

“Not that we aren’t doing that; we just need more people who want to portray that kind of image.”

Mueller and Cool say they are happy with the Tacoma Police Department’s community outreach programs and hope to host more diversity job fairs in the future. They are planned but not scheduled, Cool said.

Mueller said she hopes the job fair will spark interest in people who might otherwise not consider a career in law enforcement. She understands how a brief encounter can shift a person’s perspective.

Mueller was a Pacific Lutheran University student studying to be a teacher when she went on a ridealong with a Pierce County sheriff’s deputy. She’d never considered law enforcement as a profession because she didn’t see many women in that field. But when the deputy told her she seemed to have a knack for police work, it set her down a new career path.

A police officer for 20 years, Mueller hopes the job fair will have a similar impact on a future police officer.

“To me, if we can reach one person in the community who may not have thought of themselves as a police officer … that is successful.”

TACOMA PD HIRING

DEADLINE: Aug. 22

TESTING STARTS: Oct. 3

MORE INFORMATION: cityoftacoma.org

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