SDPD cruiser

A San Diego Police cruiser. Courtesy OnScene.TVThe San Diego City Council’s Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee Wednesday advanced a media branding and marketing contract to bolster police recruitment efforts.

The $350,000 contract with downtown-based Loma Media extends two years, with options to extend three more individual years. The City Council must now provide final approval.

The San Diego Police Department has for several years dealt with a staffing crisis that has lengthened response times and increased overtime budgets. The department saw a 39 percent decline in received applications between 2014-17, equal to roughly 1,000 people, said Capt. Richard Freedman, who oversees recruiting.

Officer salaries will rise with the coming fiscal year budget, which is expected to aid recruiting.

But competing agencies in San Diego County and Southern California use “aggressive marketing” to attract officers, Freedman said.

SDPD’s contract with Loma is intended to narrow the gap with branding initiatives, including a new slogan and improved website. Marketing would also be conducted via billboard, radio, television and social media, with a heavy emphasis on the latter medium to target 20- to 30-year-old applicants.

“We’re really looking to set ourselves apart from our competitors,” Freedman said.

Loma’s vice president of content strategy, Angie Giovannini, also said social media is an effective tool to reach diverse audiences.

SDPD Chief David Nisleit said that’s one of the department’s hiring priorities.

“We’ll be working with Loma Media to make sure we get that diversity – – we want to have a police force that represents the community we serve,” he said.

Loma was one of four companies that responded to a request for proposals sent out by SDPD earlier in the year. A panel selected the firm because of its social media expertise and prior clients, which include the U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command, Semper Fi Fund, UC San Diego and Google, among others.

Funding for the first two years of the marketing contract was included in the current fiscal year budget.

The department has typically used internal resources to attract and hire officers. City Councilwoman Lorie Zapf said seeking outside help is a “huge step forward in rebuilding our police department.”

“This is a whole new area of expertise — I think it will make a big difference,” she said.

–City News Service