Recent hires promise an increased force at the Fort Smith Police Department, officials say.

Fort Smith police Cpl. Anthony Rice said 13 people who passed interviews with the Police Department are going through academy training. The 13 trainees are part of the 33 officer positions he said will bring the force up to "authorized strength."

The 13 trainees will push the force from 131 personnel up to 144 when they graduate from the academy on April 20, Rice said.

The 13 positions that are expected to be filled in April were initially unfrozen by officials with the city of Fort Smith near the end of 2017. Police Chief Nathaniel Clark initially said that he would like to fill the positions by the end of 2018, as the hires would help staff productivity and offset some of the load taken on by members of the force.

Rice said Police Department officials have moved forward with hiring 20 more officers while the 13 are still training in the academy, which would result in a force of 164. He also said Clark is trying to hire a deputy director of administration and public information officer, both of which will be civilian positions.

"All in all, that will bring us up to where we need to be," Rice said.

The struggle to meet "authorized strength" is not unique to the Fort Smith Police Department, Rice said. He said that law enforcement agencies struggling to find people to hire is "a national trend."

“This is a calling for most people. Being a police officer is not just a job," he said. "It’s something that people do because they want to do what they’re doing. They believe in serving the public."

Rice said Police Department officials are "not targeting any group of people to try to get hired." That being said, Rice said the Police Department "is more diverse than it has ever been" with the new hires.

"People need to realize that if you’re qualified and you meet the requirements, and we feel like you’re the right person for the job, you’re going to get hired," Rice said.

Rice also said that police officials "want a department that mirrors the public" they serve.

The new hires will start out as patrol officers. They will be eligible to apply for other positions within the department after one year as patrol officers, Rice said.

Rice said Clark is mainly focused on hiring community-minded police officers. He said solving crime in a community has to be done through "the Police Department partnering with the community."

"(Clark) says, 'Make a deposit in the community’s bank on a daily basis' all the time," Rice said. "We believe that here at the Fort Smith Police Department, and we want to serve the public.”