Burlington hopes community policing will create full-circle careers in law enforcement

BURLINGTON, N.C. -- The Burlington Police Department answers about 80,000 calls a year. That’s the amount of opportunities they have to make an impact and a difference in the community. Sometimes those connections come at a young, impressionable age.

A new recruitment video highlights these relationships, from the perspective of a young boy who calls police after a domestic dispute between his parents. In the end, the boy ends up pursuing a career in law enforcement.

"We were looking for something that would catch a different group of people,” said Capt. Mark Rascoe.

Rascoe and members of the department hope the concept of a full-circle approach will help generate more enthusiasm for service, creating more homegrown cops.

They already have a strong recruitment process, going to conferences for ideas and showing a presence at colleges and high schools. But Rascoe admits, while the pool of applicants is strong, there’s not the same excitement for the job as years past.

But some young cadets exemplify exactly what the department is trying to accomplish with this new approach.

"I had a good experience when I was younger with law enforcement and it kind of made me want to have that impact on other kids,” said Jennifer Ashworth, who grew up in Whitsett.

Ashworth and more than a dozen new recruits stood in a huddle with yellow neon vests in a parking lot peppered with worn down orange traffic cones. They were driving some of the older cruisers around the lot as a part of training. But it’s not the speed, or thrill of a chase that attracted Ashworth to the force.

"It's really not about the dangers, it's about being able to serve other people,” she said.

Greensboro native Will Wright recently went to an open house to find the opportunity at BPD. He believes community policing is how local law enforcement will bridge communities.

"The community is, it's everything,” Wright said. "You know looking out for you neighbor I feel like is a tradition in itself, and something I feel we kind of need to focus on."

Grace Gunter grew up in Mebane. She thinks understanding the people you serve is easy to do when you grew up around them, and is essential for effective police work.

"When you know a place really well, I think its a good place to start, you kind of know what people want and what they're looking for in law enforcement,” Gunter said.

Part of BPD’s recruitment effort is also making sure the department reflects the community it serves. Roscoe says there is an increasing need for more officers who speak Spanish and are bilingual to connect with members of the growing Hispanic community.