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How a Mobile Application Team Can Improve Officer Recruitment

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By Dr. Chuck Russo, Program Director of Criminal Justice at American Military University

Those of us who are sworn officers likely remember all the hoops we had to jump through before finally being able to raise that right hand and repeat our oaths. Some things haven’t changed since the 80s when I went through the process myself. For example, a full background check is still required, which takes valuable time and resources. An agency can improve its hiring process by implementing a Mobile Application Team (MAT) to pre-screen potential recruits.

[Related: Recruiting Tomorrow’s Police Officers]

A MAT helps to quickly identify and eliminate applicants who are not eligible for hire early on in the process to save the agency time and resources. The earlier these individuals can be identified as not hirable, the less time and resources will be wasted processing their applications. Those involved in the hiring process can then focus on processing qualified applicants. The quicker the agency can get a desirable applicant through the process, the quicker that person can be hired. This can reduce the time spent to cover vacant positions and can reduce the stress placed on a shift trying to cover too much with too few bodies.

A MAT typically consists of three members who travel to different events to find new recruits. These three members are:

  1. The official recruiter. This person is a welcoming face—the agency cheerleader—who is full of energy that spreads to everyone he/she comes into contact with.
  2. The background investigator. This officer is well-versed in the hiring process and knows to look for the areas that equate to success or failure when conducting the pre-hire investigation.
  3. The mobile data terminal (MDT)/teletype operator. This is the person who takes down important information including name and date of birth, as well as other identifiers. This information can be used to make an early determination about the individual’s probability of success in being hired.

The MAT can set up at a job fair, military installation, college campus, community event, sporting event, etc. and meet with those who may be interested in a law enforcement career. The MAT vehicle, usually a van, will hold many items, such as a table and chairs, displays and flyers, and should be able to double as a rolling/parked billboard to promote the agency. The idea is that a MAT can roll into a location, set up and quickly attract potential applicants.

When someone shows interest in a potential law enforcement career, he or she can be given a pre-screener application that captures some basic information. The team can utilize the pre-screener application to do an initial records check (driver license history, Selective Service registration, criminal history check, credit check, etc.) to identify potential disqualifying conditions early in the process. All this is done on site and with the potential applicant still present. If the results are favorable, the team can provide a potential applicant with a full application to complete and return with the necessary supporting documentation required by the agency/state.

A MAT is a great tool to get the agency in front of those who wish to embark on a career in law enforcement. It can also make a difficult process easier for everyone. It can make it easier for potential applicants to navigate the process, raise their right hands and repeat the oath. It can also make it easier for the agency by allowing personnel to focus on processing potential applicants who have a higher probability of success. A MAT can be a win for all involved.

MAT About the Author: Dr. Chuck Russo is the Program Director of Criminal Justice at American Military University (AMU). He began his career in law enforcement in 1987 in Central Florida and was involved all areas of patrol, training, special operations and investigations before retiring from law enforcement in 2013. Dr. Russo continues to design and instruct courses, as well as act as a consultant for education, government and industry throughout the United States and the Middle East. His recent research and presentations focus on emerging technology and law enforcement applications, in addition to post-traumatic stress and online learning. To contact the author, please email


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