Viral police recruiting video criticized
00:37 - Source: CNN

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The Hillsboro Police Department in Oregon seeks a new police chief

Its recruitment video, starring officers, goes for laughs at a cost of $9,200

"We wanted something that expressed our culture of openness," spokesman says

CNN  — 

A viral video has real officers going for laughs with the serious intent of finding their next police chief.

“We wanted something that expressed our culture of openness,” said Hillsboro, Oregon, Lt. Michael Rouches, the department’s public information officer.

“It’s not that we take our jobs lightly, it’s that we tend to approach every situation with a positive attitude. So we thought, ‘how could we demonstrate that message to a potential chief of police?’”

The answer came in the form of a scripted video that’s part “Law and Order,” part “Parks and Recreation.” It’s been a smash on YouTube.

Running a little more than six minutes, the video comprises sketch routines featuring officers on the 120-member force.

“This is our dispatcher, Earleen,” an officer says cheerfully in one sequence. “She’s fantastic; you can reach her at 911.” All the officers, except one acting “cool,” are from the department. The two bad guys are professional actors.

The video was shot over three days in early July and cost about $9,200. Rouches said the money came from the city’s marketing budget.

“It’s public money, and when we look at the return on this $9,000 we spent, the fact is that a lot of folks are paying attention,” he said. “I’m also very sensitive to the public’s trust about the money, but the feedback from the people in our city has been very positive.”

Hillsboro may be looking for an image makeover as well. The previous police chief resigned in March amid labor tensions, according to The Oregonian newspaper. In addition, a former commander filed a hostile work environment action against the interim police chief, who left in June, the newspaper said.

Rouches said the environment has greatly improved.

“The issues internally have never been issues externally; they’ve never manifested themselves out in the field, and that’s where the rubber meets the road for us,” he said.

Will the video be a hit or miss? Will it start a trend for first-responders looking for applicants?

Lauri Stevens, a social media consultant for police departments, thought Hillsboro did the right thing.

“This video in my opinion was (and) is a risk,” Stevens said. “But I think in the long run, it’s going to be a big win for both their reputation and their selection options for the next chief.”

She also praised the department for being a trendsetter.

“Hillsboro is pushing that envelope and so they’re going to be criticized. All pioneers have to take a few arrows in the back right?” she said. “They say they’re not an uptight department and, I would say they’re proving it!”

The video’s director echoed the sentiment, calling it a “fantastic” way to get the word out.

“It was awesome that they wanted to do something like this,” said Brett Eichenberger. “We think outside of the box. I look at this as a great opportunity to get a positive message out there about the police.”

Rouches said he has seen criticism of the video in web comments after articles about it, but he stands by the department’s decision.

“If they could meet our folks, they could understand what we are trying to get across,” he said. “The whole thing is to connect with people and make good things happen.”

And for anyone who may be interested, the salary for the Hillsboro police chief ranges between $101,916 and $137,880.

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