KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Police are reaching out to high school students, looking for candidates interested in careers helping their community.
Some students at Frontier STEM High School are looking in alternatives to taking on a mountain of college debt. This includes jobs as first responders.
That doesn't mean someone right out of high school can be become a police officer. Officer applicants must be at least 21 years old. However, the department said it's important to show high schoolers that, at 18, they can start a career through other areas of public service that pays a livable wage with good benefits.
For example, a high school graduate can start as a parking control officer, a 911 call taker or a dispatcher, where the pay starts at more than $18 an hour.
From there, young people can pursue a law enforcement career after turning 21. A police officer who successfully completes training starts at nearly $46,000 a year.
That's a figure that is getting the attention of teenagers, who increasingly face a choice of finding a good paying job now or taking on debt without any guarantee that a college degree will land them a higher-paying career.
"I would say starting a career with as little debt as possible, it’s the thing to do, because inflation occurs yearly, and things aren’t getting cheaper," Capt. Jeffery Hughley, of KCPD's East Patrol division, said. "If you can get right into a career, you can have benefits, and if you have a family, you also have benefits that take care of that family. I think it's a good move."
The city council is discussing hiring more police officers in May. Now, it's just a matter of how many. The budget released last weeks calls for 10 new unites, but some on the council are pushing for 30.
Currently, there are open positions in parking control, which would allow teens to get their foot in the door. Kids interested in science and technology often don't realize that police also have jobs for information technology professionals and crime lab specialists that pay even more than what officers make.
The high school career fair also is a good opportunity for teens to see police as real people with families, and not an intimidating presence they should fear.