SAN DIEGO – Recruiting applications for the San Diego Police Department have fallen nearly 50% since 2013, but a social media influencer may be the key to turning it all around.
“We’re very excited about this!” Lt. Shawn Takeuchi with SDPD said. “She reached out to San Diego police and said, ‘Hey, here’s what I’m thinking.'”
Michelle Khare has a YouTube following of nearly 1.5 million people, and she has another 250,000 followers on Instagram.
“I do a series called Challenge Accepted,” Khare told FOX 5 during a FaceTime interview from Los Angeles. “I take on a wide variety of extreme mental and physical challenges.”
Khare has created videos on what it’s like to be an astronaut, what it’s like to go through Marine Boot Camp and more. But for this latest chapter, she wanted to tackle a concern she’s had about police departments around the country. “A lot of my perception of police before this experience was those headlines I see on social media all the time about police brutality, improper use of force and racial tension,” she said.
In hopes of trying to understand who police officers really are and what they go through, she decided to go behind the scenes in San Diego and train to become an officer.
“Are they just going to be cops eating donuts in police cars all day, or are they the people we see on social media all the time?” she wondered. “What I learned with SDPD is that these people are humans and they went through insane training to do what they do every single day.”
Khare was pepper sprayed, she was tased and she was given a crash course on what it’s like to become an officer. SDPD welcomed her with open arms, hoping her audience will see officers through an unfiltered perspective -- and hoping her video might even inspire some viewers to become officers themselves.
“We need to be creative about how we’re recruiting,” Takeuchi said. “Our target audience is 21- to 35-year-olds, and they have a different thought process. They take in information very differently. So for us to partner with a social media influencer is a huge step forward.”
The full 30-minute YouTube video will be posted on Khare’s channel on Sunday. In the video, she dives into serious topics -- including police brutality and the department’s relationship with the Black Lives Matter movement -- in depth. Visit https://www.youtube.com/user/lilogirl2000 to see the full episode.