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Police video sparks wide debate

The Hillsboro Police Department launched its search for a new chief last week with a two-pronged approach officials are characterizing as serious and professional on one hand and frivolous and light-hearted on another. by: COURTESY PHOTO - In one scene from the citys police chief recruitment video, Hillsboro Officer Roberto Di Giulio shows off by attempting to slide across the hood of his patrol car.

A lengthy document describing what the chief position entails, qualities the agency is seeking in its new leader and a description of HPD’s mission exists on the city’s website. But it’s the other half of the recruitment campaign that has drawn cheers — as well as jeers — in some quarters, including a mention on the gossip blog Gawker.

City officials posted a six-minute chief recruitment video on YouTube Aug. 7 that’s garnered attention locally and nationally, mostly because — at first — it appears to be a spoof.

Not so, said city officials. Patrick Preston, Hillsboro’s public affairs manager, explained that the video is an integral part of the city’s recruitment pitch.

“The video showcases the department’s connection to our growing and diverse community, and our dedication to top-quality, professional public safety work,” Preston said. “Maintaining a sense of humor is important in any job, but especially for the person who leads the Hillsboro Police Department.”

It’s a big department. The HPD currently has 179 positions (including 131 sworn officers) and a budget of $29.5 million. In recent months, the department has faced low morale and dealt with a number of labor conflicts, which contributed to the previous police chief’s decision to resign in March.

The lighthearted video shows officers gleefully sliding across patrol cars to show off, for example, and a SWAT team barging into an elderly woman’s house to help her find her hearing aid.

The video has received mixed responses. It has been panned by some on YouTube and other websites, and by several law enforcement officials.

Former Beaverton Police Chief Dave Bishop, who retired in 2008 after 16 years in that city and nine years as Newberg’s police chief, said he did not enjoy seeing the Hillsboro department characterized in a whimsical manner.

Bishop said the video reminded him of the spoof TV show, “Reno 911!”

“I don’t like it when [someone] makes fun of a police department. It’s a very professional agency and should be treated as such,” Bishop said. “If you showed this to the National Association of Chiefs of Police, they’d look at you like, ‘What is this?’”

However, a police website called PoliceOne.com — a San Francisco-based site reported to be a top national resource for police officers — posted the city’s video with the headline, “Best police recruitment video ever?”

“This is the target audience for our police chief recruitment, and we could not buy this kind of awareness,” said Preston.

Hillsboro City Manager Michael Brown could not be reached for comment before press time, but in a statement from his office he made it clear he “enthusiastically approved the video.”

Lt. Mike Rouches, HPD’s public information officer, supports the unconventional recruitment campaign.

“Yes, it is a two-track approach,” he said. “We are dedicated to serving, but also we have creative, progressive officers who take time to put people at ease, and this video explains some of that. The officers have enjoyed the video and have received it well and have been all in for the project.”

The video was created by Beaverton-based Resonance Productions at a cost to the city of just over $9,000.

On the Resonance website, the company described how the video came about.

“They needed a video that captured the unique personalities of the HPD as well as showcase the culture of the community,” read an excerpt. “We wanted to borrow elements from action flicks like ‘Training Day’ and blend it with the humor of a show like NBC’s ‘Parks and Recreation.’ Using actual members of the department (with a couple actors to round things out), applicants to the Hillsboro Police Department get a real taste of what the position has to offer.”

Preston said he’s happy about the exposure the video is garnering. Even CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer got in on the action, commenting about the video on “The Situation Room” over the weekend.

“The entire country is learning that Hillsboro is hiring a new police chief,” Preston said. “That attention and free publicity only helps us to attract the best candidates.”

Sept. 20 is the application deadline for those seeking to become the next police chief.




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