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Roseville police use workout program to recruit new officers

It’s Wednesday night and music is booming. In one corner, Roseville Police Chief Daniel Hahn completes a wall sit exercise, while Lauren Beltran – sweat dripping down her face – holds a 45-pound weight high above her head.

Welcome to WOD Wednesday.

WOD, short for “workout of the day,” is a bimonthly gathering of Roseville police officers and potential recruits in a gym behind police headquarters. The department uses the meeting as a hiring tool, allowing officers to meet people interested in law enforcement even before they apply.

Some are in high school. Others, like Beltran, 29, are looking for a career change. And there are those from other departments wanting to move to Roseville, a city of 127,000 known for its quiet neighborhoods and low crime rate.

Hahn, who was hired as chief four years ago from the Sacramento Police Department, said the program is also a calculated effort to increase diversity within his agency, which he acknowledged has traditionally been dominated by whites.

“If we’re going to recruit for diversity, the first step is entry-level, not laterals from other departments,” Hahn said. “The entry-level people are oftentimes looking for a job. They’ll go anywhere.”

Hahn, who was Roseville’s first black officer, said he didn’t blame minorities for not applying to the city.

“Typically if you’re going to a department, you’d call that department up and ask, ‘How many black officers do you have?’ If your answer is zero, that black officer is not coming.”

Now, about 5 percent of Roseville’s 128 officers are black, which Hahn noted is higher than the city’s African American population of 0.7 percent, according to the 2010 U.S. census.

For Beltran, a supervisor in the UC Davis transportation department, WOD Wednesday has helped her network with law enforcement and hone certain skills that are required of recruits.

For instance, she would often struggle with hopping a 6-foot wall, which is part of the test for police academy cadets. Now she jumps over with ease, relying on her ankles and legs for support – a tip that was given to her by one of the officers in the program.

“It’s worth every second of the drive,” said Beltran, who lives in Vacaville.

Beltran has applied to a number of agencies, including in Roseville, Sacramento and Contra Costa County, and is waiting to hear back.

Hahn described WOD Wednesday as something of a pre-interview for the department, allowing managers to know applicants before they apply. It has helped weed out those who aren’t necessarily a good fit for Roseville, he said.

Still, taking part in WOD Wednesday does not guarantee employment. The path to law enforcement can sometimes be rocky.

Applicants must have a clean record and background, with departments interviewing neighbors to see if the recruit has good character. Aside from criminal history, police also look into bankruptcies and credit history.

Once those obstacles are overcome, prospective police officers have a few routes to enter the profession. The most common way is to seek sponsorship from a department to pay for the police academy. Upon graduation, the cadet would be practically guaranteed a job with the force.

Another way is to pay for the academy out of pocket, then graduate and interview with different agencies.

“Jobs aren’t handed out. People have to work for them,” Hahn said, estimating that roughly 15 percent to 25 percent of academy attendees fail to graduate.

But mentors at the workout try to help each step of the way. Some participants get tips in writing, while others receive advice on losing weight.

Officer Mykel Barbour is one of the program’s success stories and is unofficially known as the “first graduate” of WOD Wednesday.

“It gave me the opportunity to come out and make a name for myself,” said Barbour, who landed a job with the Roseville Police Department in 2014 and is African American.

Now instead of fretting about academy exams, he deals with the challenges of law enforcement, like the Interstate 80 traffic jams on the way to Placer County jail in Auburn.

“People go at least 5 miles (per hour) slower when I’m behind them,” Barbour said, chuckling. “I’m just trying to get to the jail.”

Richard Chang: 916-321-1018, @RichardYChang

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