I continue to hear from law enforcement trainers across North America how difficult it is to recruit people in 2020 and how the applicant pool is continually shrinking. I realize it is a tough time to recruit right now but, is the pool shrinking or are we simply using 20-year-old recruiting strategies, which are no longer effective in today’s world?
20 years ago people were knocking down our doors to get jobs. Agencies would have hundreds, if not thousands of people applying when it was announced that they were hiring. Now, that is not the case. That does not necessarily mean that the applicant pool is shrinking. It may mean that we need to think differently about how we recruit people.
As a profession we need to be proactive in recruiting. We can no longer simply set up a booth at job fairs and wait for people to come to us. We can longer simply put an ad out on social media and then sit back and wait. We also shift from only recruiting people who are looking for a job and also think about recruiting as a process where we look to mentor and develop people over a course of years before we look to actually get them in the applicant pool.
Where do we start? Let’s start by breaking down the silos between recruiting, training and FTOs. Let’s get the recruiting personnel, academy instructors, FTOs and frontline supervisors in the same room and have a discussion about the traits and characteristics of people who thrive in the Academy and do well on the street post Academy. This is not a bitch session about “the new generation”, or “the good old days”. This is a constructive discussion, dialogue and debate about the traits and characteristics of an effective police officer in 2020 and beyond.
Once you come up with a list of those traits and characteristics then have a discussion about where you can find people who have already started to demonstrate those characteristics in their late teens and early 20’s. Maybe that is in high school debate teams, sports programs, vocational training programs and other areas. If the SRO program has not been eliminated in the current climate, your SRO’s may be a good resource to help identify these young people.
When I am talking about athletic programs in high school, college or university I am not talking about the tendency to always try to recruit the star athlete or the stud from a sports program. I am talking about looking for people who demonstrate a strong work ethic, who are always early for practice, who will help do the tasks and chores others feel is beneath them, who are students of the game, demonstrate leadership skills and who are great teammates.
Members of your agency who volunteer as youth sports coaches are another great resource as are members of your agency who train regularly in martial arts. Identify officers who train at a dojo that emphasizes and teaches discipline, respect, integrity, honor, humility and hard work and get them to actively work on recruiting young men and women in their late teens and early 20’s.
You can also recruit the solid cops in your agency who are still proud of the work they do to help recruit the next generation of cops. Get them to actively recruit those people they would be proud to have carry on the legacy they have worked their entire careers to build. I am not talking about offering cash bonuses for recruiting people. That is Finite Game thinking. I am talking about tapping in their pride in the profession, pride in the agency and their commitment to the Infinite Game and their commitment to the continued reputation and success of the agency and the profession.
Consider developing a Mentoring Academy for potential applicants. This is similar to a Citizens Police Academy, but focused on exposing the potential applicants to key aspects of the agency that will better prepare them for the application process, the realities of the Academy and a career in law enforcement. It is an opportunity to educate them about the realities of the profession such as shift work, in a positive manner. It is also an opportunity to help them understand that the anti-police groups who get a lot of time on the news and social media do not speak for the greater community. Instead of selling them on all the specialty units they could aspire to, sell them on the benefits of working patrol such as the variety of calls and the greatest ability to make a difference in people’s lives. Sell them on the opportunity to be part of something bigger than themselves and the opportunity to serve their community.
If you have a requirement that people have a 3-year associate’s degree or a 4-year bachelor’s degree then you also need to have a discussion about requirement and ask “Why?” What is it that someone who went to college or university for 3 or 4 years potentially brings to your agency that makes them a better law enforcement professional than someone who worked full time for that same amount of time. You can read the July 27, 2020 post Some Thoughts on the Calls for Better Educated Cops, for more on this topic.
Now more than ever we need recruiting to be seen as a team sport and a long-term project. There are good men and women out there who would do well in this profession. You may just have to work differently to identify and recruit them.
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