Here's a quandary. You want to apply to several departments. The first one seems fine, and the second has the coolest gear and tricked-out cars. So you ask, which one should I go for?
Whoa, Junior! There's more to career selection than picking the agency with the neat toys and hot cars. Let's look at this from the 50,000-foot level.
First, you'll want to compare pay and benefits at the agencies. Just because they look "tacticool" in their uniforms, doesn't mean you'll pay the rent. Look beyond the flash and dash of the recruiting posters. Use a spreadsheet to compare pay, benefits and perquisites ("perks") of the desired agencies. Pay scales are going to be somewhat similar, if you're in the same region.
Next, compare benefits and get down to the real money. Do they offer health insurance, dental insurance, or disability? What rate will you pay? What are their deductibles? Are the coverages the same? Are they a member of a PPO (Preferred Provider Organization) with a list of physicians or do you have to see the city doctor?
Do they offer an equipment or uniform allowance? Is all of the equipment issued? What about a laundry allowance or service? If you get a take-home car, what are the rules about off-duty usage?
Research these items because they'll have a real impact on your net (take home) pay. They will impact your budget more than you think. I realize you want and need the job, but be selective where you apply. There's no need to start a job with an organization that will cost you more than what you should have to pay for.
Police recruiters are like military recruiters. They have their quotas, and will sell you on their department. Face it, they like the recruiting assignment. If they don't reach their quota, they'll go back on the night shift on the seedy side of town. Therefore, get past the shiny posters and action photos. Ask meaty questions about issues that have meaning and impact on your life.
Morale and turnover are two good indicators of why they're filling slots. The best way to gauge morale is by talking with street cops, rather than the shiny poster child in the booth at the college job fair. Recruiters, give real information to your candidates.
If it really blows to work here, there's not enough money to find happiness. If there's been a recent turnover or mass exodus, find out why. It could be that they offered a golden retirement package to the veterans; I'm OK with this. If a majority of the force is leaving, try to find out why and where they're going.
Face it, working in Copland doesn't always give you the best working conditions. That being said, there's no reason to make your life and financial well-being a living hell.