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BOSTON -- Boston is facing a serious shortage in police recruits, as the commissioner grapples with too many overweight, unfit and unqualified applicants who think being a member of Boston's finest is like starring in an episode of CSI.
This year's police academy class is only 60 percent full, despite a slick, $100,000 ad campaign that failed to attract enough candidates who could withstand tough BPD vetting.
While most of the current students are well-suited to wear the badge, Deputy Superintendent Marie Donahue, the academy's director, said others were completely unprepared. Some couldn't even finish a half-mile run.
"Maybe they're influenced through a false sense of what this is about,'' said Donahue, who couldn't wait to don the BPD badge when she was hired about 30 years ago.
"The heart and soul of the job is the patrol, but they want something prettier. They want something exciting. I don't know that they realize a lot of it is not that glittery.''
The numbers tell the story. The academy budgeted for 80 students. Only 60 survived the vetting process. Of them, 12 have already dropped out - most citing the physical demands.
If last year's class is any indication - only about 70 percent of the recruits made it through - the ranks will likely thin further before December graduation.
"We're obviously disappointed that there's been such an attrition rate this year,'' acknowledged BPD Commissioner Edward Davis.
"What is important is that we're holding our recruits to the standards appropriate to the important service they are about to provide to the city and the community.''
The numbers are so low Davis plans to take the rare step of seating another academy this year.
Police departments nationwide have seen a vexing drop in the number of aspiring cops over the past decade. It hit the Hub hard last year, amid an urgency for more cops on the street. So up went the online ads and the billboards with the slogan: ``Many Jobs, One Career, Boston's Future.''
Davis ordered a full-time team of recruiters to help lure a higher caliber and expanded pool of applicants. The effort did boost interest, but being good on paper isn't always good enough.
Physical fitness is a problem. Despite repeated warnings by Donahue to get in shape, some showed up unable to complete the easiest courses and others were, well, just plain fat.
The Recruit Investigations Division spends a full four to six months on each candidate. They probe credit records, neighbors, and employment records - including sick time.
Then comes the psychological exam, a test so intense that it has raised eyebrows with city councilors and even some members of the Civil Service Commission. Applicants come from a state-certified list of Civil Service exam-takers.
But for a number of reasons including the intensive background check, not all applicants are looked at in a given hiring cycle. Critics contend good applicants are being passed over.
"They had qualified applicants and they didn't pursue them, such as my son,'' said veteran BPD Officer Joseph A. Murray.
His 23-year-old son, a lance corporal in the Marines who served as a BPD dispatcher for three years and earned a top score on the exam, wasn't vetted.
"I was never given a reason why,'' Murray said, adding, ``I'm talking as a father, not as a police officer.''
A BPD spokeswoman said Murray's son is still eligible for employment, and that there are others like him who just have not been considered yet.
Meanwhile, the department hopes they can somehow solve their recruiting woes.
"Our struggle is not in graduating the best people, but finding the people to come in and show up,'' said Donahue.