Once upon a time, both Franklin police and fire departments would get hundreds of applications for one opening. With current troubled times, that is no longer the norm. Now, it takes a lot of creativity and discussion to fill openings.
“Unfortunately, with the world the way it is, [police officers] have a tough job,” explained Franklin Police Chief Deborah Faulkner. “They have a camera on their chest, a camera in their vehicle and they have to wear a uniform [which makes them stand out].”
Both chiefs use the standard Indeed, Monster and other job notification platforms used by current job seekers, but that is not where they find the majority of their applicants. They admit that they are recruiting from other cities. Since both Johnson and Faulkner run training academies in their fields of national renown, they see firefighters and police officers from all over the state and the country.
“The recent pay raises that the Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved has made a big difference,” said Johnson. “I thank them. That is making the process better. We are now able to recruit from all over.”
New police officers and firefighters are often coming from California and New York, as people from those states are looking for a safer place to raise their children and a better quality of life. Also, in those states they do not feel supported by either their superiors or the community.
“We want our officers to be part of our community,” noted Erick Stuckey, Franklin City Administrator.
Chief Johnson said that many of his firefighters say that they can’t picture being anywhere but Franklin. The community does indeed support them, and they like to support the community.
“We had an elderly lady get overheated as she was planting flowers,” said Johnson. “After the ambulance took her to the hospital, the crew stayed and finished planting her flowers. They wanted to make a difference.”
“We know we are supported, and we don’t take that for granted,” added Chief Faulkner. “We get cards, food, letters….”
This community care is why some officers are making lateral moves from their current departments.
“We currently have three coming from Metro Nashville,” explained Faulkner. “I’m not very popular up there right now.”
Officers who make lateral moves require less training, two to three weeks. New recruits must go through a 16-week training program, and then have more on-the-job training. There is a steep learning curve. Those who are making lateral moves just need to know how things are done in Franklin. They do not have to go through basic training. And often they bring special skills with them.
“We also like working with former military,” said Faulkner. “It is a similar mindset.”
Distinct qualities are important to both police officers and firefighters. First, they must be physically fit. Then, they need to have character, be professional, have integrity, be trustworthy, have a strong work ethic, be smart, and bring bravery and heart to the job.
“I can give them quality equipment and the best training,” said Faulkner, “but I can’t teach them bravery and heart.”
In return, both chiefs do all they can to find ways to provide the support that their officers and firefighters need to stay in an often-thankless job.
To help, the Franklin Police Department has brought a mental health professional on board. The therapist is there to help officers cope with hard situations. She can help them work through an issue with a community member who is dealing with mental health issues, or their own stress created by the job.
Franklin Police Department has also developed a peer counseling program. This allows one officer to help another work through a bad situation. That help means a lot coming from someone who knows what the officer is going through.
“We have resources now to get officers and their families what they need when they are struggling,” said Faulkner. “We want to give our officers what they need to do the job they love and feel supported.”
These are all ways that they are working to ‘stop the bleed’. “We are always looking for new ways to recruit and keep personnel,” added Johnson.