The law enforcement field has an image problem. Ongoing negative media attention means there isn’t a huge draw to become a police officer. Coupled with the economy being on the right track, people who once may have considered becoming a police officer are often choosing good-paying private sector jobs over lower-paying government ones. For the vast majority of police agencies, vacancies exceed the number of qualified applicants coming to the door. What can agencies do to change this and return to the good old days when there were 150 qualified applicants for two sworn positions?
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Agencies must be in “recruiting mode” 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If an agency waits until it has openings to begin the recruiting process, it could take weeks and maybe even months until quality candidates are sworn in. But if an agency is in constant recruiting mode, it will have quality applicants waiting in the wings for each opening.
This 24/7 recruiting mode requires the agency to enlist the help of all its officers to seek out qualified individuals. While one officer may be the “official” agency recruiter, in reality all officers should undertake recruiting efforts for the agency. Every officer is a representative of the agency and has the ability to make quality connections with potential applicants.
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Knowing this, the agency should equip every officer with promotional items that tout the benefits of working for the agency. Officers should have brochures and pamphlets that have information about the agency including contact information for the official recruiter. These materials should also have a space for an officer to write his/her name and contact information so the individual can be in touch and it informs the recruiting officer how the applicant found out about the agency. The agency can then reward the officer who first contacted that potential hire with a few hours of compensated time off or some other reward.
Being in constant recruiting mode also means the agency must cultivate and maintain an active social media presence. Daily activity on social media, including Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat, is a necessity in today’s environment. If you want to be on the mind of future applicants for the right reasons, a social media presence is a must; it is how your future applicants communicate and obtain the information they use on a regular basis. An agency expects future applicants to be knowledgeable about what is important to the agency, so the agency must work to clearly communicate that to the public. Since we know communication is a two-way street, shouldn’t the agency also be literate with future applicants’ communication tools?
Promote the Benefits of Shift Rotation
An agency’s shift rotation can be one area that appeals to potential applicants. With some agencies still rotating shifts on a monthly basis, an agency that provides more stability in shift rotation may look better in the eyes of an applicant. While this could mean an officer is on a shift for a year at a time, shift rotations of every four months have a certain appeal as well. This type of rotation can coincide with the local college semester system allowing an officer to return to school to finish a degree or earn another. Couple this with a tuition reimbursement policy and the agency just upped their appeal in the eyes of potential applicants.
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Shift rotation is just one way to appeal to the potential applicant. Other aspects of the agency can be tweaked as well to make the agency more appealing. We all know law enforcement is not an easy job due to numerous internal and external factors. Therefore, any “little” things the agency can do to have to improve the working life of an officer may pay dividends in drawing qualified applicants to the profession.
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.