DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — The Durham Police Department has brought back an event it hopes will help with recruiting. 

The department is holding open-houses at police headquarters twice a month. The sessions started back up in January after being paused during the pandemic. People can also attend virtually. It’s a way for the department to explain the hiring process, training, and answer people’s questions.

Only one person attended the event in-person, but department recruiters CBS 17 spoke to are optimistic more people will show up in the future.

Kayla Cadlett attended the session. What started as a childhood fascination is now leading to a career as a Durham Police officer.

“When I was a kid, I would always tell my dad, like dad look at that police car,” Cadlett said. “And I still wanna drive in one, it’s kind of like living the dream.” 

Now Cadlett knows being a police officer is about more than just the car; she says she wants to make a difference in the community she grew up in.

One of her friends who’s working to be an officer helped connect her to the department. 

“Durham is great, a lot of people frown upon Durham, but Durham is really a gem, we have a lot of good gems here,” Cadlett said.

At last week’s Durham City Council work session, Durham Police Chief Patrice Andrews said the department had a 19% vacancy rate, which means it’s down about 100 sworn officers.

Andrews spoke about the department’s recent recruiting efforts, including restructuring how the candidate test is administered. She said applicants now do the reading comprehension before the physical test.

“After you do our physical assessment, you’re exhausted, so we know physicalexhaustion equates to mental exhaustion,” Andrews said.

Additionally, candidates have nearly twice as much time now to complete the reading comprehension portion, 45 minutes instead of 25, according to Andrews.

“As a result, the rate of failure has experienced a significant decrease,” Andrews said.

She said 22% of applicants failed the written test in the 4th quarter, down from 46% in the 3rd quarter.

Department recruiters said 16 people joined the current academy, the goal is always 40.

The starting pay for officers is $46,998 for candidates without a degree. There is a $10,000 sign on-bonus and a relocation bonus up to $3,000.