It’s not easy being a police officer, especially in today’s environment that has put the behaviors of law enforcement officers under the microscope. And that makes recruiting new ones to the force and retaining existing officers an even bigger challenge.
One of the main obstacles to recruitment is the fact that all agencies and departments throughout the country are competing for a limited pool of qualified candidates, says Marvin (Ben) Haiman, executive director, Professional Development Bureau, Metropolitan Police Department in the District of Columbia.
Haiman, one of the speakers at the upcoming 4th Annual Police Recruitment & Retention Summit: Practical Methods for Retaining Experienced Police Officers, and Expanding Your Team to Create a Strong Diverse Police Force, says that all agencies are looking for the “best of the best” and no agency can afford to handle anything less than that.”
The recruits that agencies are all trying to find are those who believe that law enforcement is an honorable service profession that involves helping people and the community. Those people are harder to find in the age of social media that influences people’s minds about law enforcement, Haiman says, especially as they are exposed to negative images and videos of police officers from other jurisdictions that don’t represent the entire profession.
THE HIRING PROCESS: MAKE BETTER USE OF TECHNOLOGY
But there are ways that agencies can make the hiring process more efficient. Haiman will speak during the conference in a session that addresses the best use of new and existing technology to streamline the hiring process, reduce application processing time, and maximize data analytics to improve screening and tracking of candidates.
Haiman’s department now uses technology that has cut out the manual tasks that used to hold up the processes. “Now we are entirely paperless in the investigation process because we use a more robust management system,” he says. Haiman will demonstrate how the technology works and explain to attendees how the program benefits the department. The system, he says, flags concerning answers on the applicant questionnaire.
Prior to implementing the technology, Haiman says it could take nine months to assess a pre-employment candidate. Now it can take as little as three or four months, but Haiman says that is a conservative estimate.
RETENTION STRATEGY: CONSIDER THE CULTURE OF YOUR DEPARTMENT
Another way to help with recruitment efforts is to retain officers at a higher rate. That way you don’t have to recruit as many officers, says Billy J. Grogan, chief of police, Dunwoody Police Department in Georgia, who is also scheduled to speak at this year’s recruitment and retention conference.
“One of the things we talk about in our department with supervisors and staff is what can we do to make this a great environment to work in,” Grogan says. “We can’t do things like Google does, with relaxed working conditions or lunches with ping pong, but we can make it a fun place to work and one to be proud to work at . . . When you have that kind of culture and a cohesive team, it makes it harder for people to leave that kind of environment.”
Furthermore, he says that it’s important that law enforcement agencies consider statistics that show that as many as 60 percent of people leave their jobs because of their direct supervisors.
“It’s so important that our frontline supervisor, our sergeant, the person closest to the officers, is the kind of leader that inspires people and encourages them and helps them, rather than the type of leader or supervisor that causes people to leave the department,” Grogan says.