The City of Rittman Police Department is currently undergoing a transition
period involving its personnel. The recent retirements of long serving officers and
influx of new personnel has set the stage for the next step in our evolution.
Police here, just like the rest of the country, are faced with difficult situations
each and every day. We interact with people who may be abusing drugs,
suffering from mental illness, capable of extreme violence, or all of the above.
Uniformed officers are the most visible form of government. Officers have the
responsibility of serving in many roles including mentor, counselor, and problem
solver. Training for those of us in this profession is ongoing. We must strive to
stay current in a job with changing expectations from the community.
One of our goals is to make Rittman a great place for people to visit, work and
live. Working together with volunteers and other community groups is necessary
as we move forward. The future is indeed challenging, however, I am confident
we have the knowledge, skills, and abilities to get the job done.
I cannot predict future events. However, I can say the employees of the
Rittman Police Department will respond with the utmost energy, professionalism,
and passion as we work to bring about a successful resolution to whatever we may face.
We will work to earn and keep the trust and respect of the community through
outstanding service, positive interactions, and open communication.
Chief Of Police
City of Rittman
YOUR OPINION IS IMPORTANT TO US.
Successful law enforcement administrators make recruitment and retention a top priority. They work to convince the mayor, city manager, city council, or other local officials to designate resources and personnel for this responsibility. The best practice is to develop a strategic recruitment and retention plan and monitor it for effectiveness. One of the missions of law enforcement leaders is to counter the negative images of police officers in the media. This affects recruitment, as the attacks on the reputation of law enforcement severely hamper agencies’ ability to attract a large pool of candidates. Law enforcement is also in serious competition with private industry and other departments for the best qualified applicants.
The aim of the recruitment plan is to attract numerous job seekers to apply or test for open sworn and non-sworn positions. This will allow law enforcement agencies to be highly selective in whom they hire, while maintaining the high standards of the law enforcement profession. Agencies should strive for continuous improvement by hiring and retaining people who are motivated, engaged, and community oriented. A strong strategic recruitment plan will include the following concepts, along with agency-specific elements.
Strategy 1: Research Recruitment Strategies
The first step in developing a recruitment strategy is to research what has worked for the agency in the past. Then, study material in publications from professional law enforcement organizations to learn what is working across the profession. Next, contact one’s network of law enforcement professionals for advice. There is some well-written policy on recruiting—use it to formulate a plan that is tailored to your community. Make sure to partner with the city or agency’s human resources (HR) department in order to collaborate on this plan. Once developed, the plan should be evaluated for effectiveness every six months.
Strategy 2: Identify and Understand Target Candidates
Start by gathering intelligence on the characteristics of the target candidate. One tool for collecting this information is a written survey with both multiple choice questions and open-ended opinion responses. This survey can be given to both community members and current officers to gauge the needs and priorities of the two groups. Using these data, a chief will be better able to set goals and develop a strategy. Make sure to ask HR to review the survey and consider testing it out on the agency’s current employees.
The recruitment strategy should focus on how prospective applicants get their news. If the agency is targeting entry-level police officers age 21 to 35, learn as much as you can about them. Do they listen to the radio? How much time do they spend on Facebook and Instagram? Do they watch the ads on those platforms? The survey should ask for the target group’s opinion on recruiting. Remember to interview and survey new officers in the department to find out what attracted them to the profession.
Today’s recruit is from a much different generation than most officers currently in command positions. Most senior leaders have served for two or three decades and are now nearing retirement age. These leaders might find it hard to relate to the younger generation. Younger candidates want to know what the department can offer them (instead of what they bring to the agency). New recruits are interested in their chances for rapid advancement and special assignments. They want flex-time, shifts that allow for a better work-life balance, and advanced training and equipment.
Strategy 3: Determine Where and How to Advertise Openings
Consider a multifaceted advertising plan to target a diverse audience. Utilizing social media is a must, but a comprehensive plan would also include magazines, billboards, and radio and television spots. Create advertisements to highlight the enjoyment that comes from the unexpected nature of police work, the challenges of the profession, and the cutting-edge technology in use.
Explore the idea of hiring someone to create a short, powerful, recruiting video to blast out to prospective employees. Ask the younger officers on the department for advice on style and content. The objective is to sell the career to the incoming generation with a catchy title and description.
Be sure to assign someone to constantly update the city and police department’s homepage. It is the agency’s job to make sure people are aware of all the sworn and non-sworn job openings. The public should feel like they are in constant contact with the hiring authority. The website must keep candidates informed on all the steps in the process and mandatory qualifications for each position.
Law enforcement agencies must work to attract a diverse pool of qualified applicants. Plan to visit college campuses both in and out of state. Target students who might not have plans for a career in public service, but who are motivated by a challenge. Strive to convince them it is possible to make a difference in their community. Craft a message that is clear and direct and emphasize they can shape the future in a career that is both exciting and enjoyable.
Strategy 4: Streamline the Process
Work to streamline the recruiting process by identifying those prospects who are most capable of qualifying for the position and eliminating those who are not. Make sure candidates understand all the legal requirements of each job. The job application should be detailed enough to include information on one’s past, including education, drug and alcohol use, and criminal activity. Recruit people who have already gone through a screening process, like military members and police officers from other departments.
Strategy 5: Engage Staff
Every employee of a police department is a recruiter to some degree, and agencies should reward those who help recruit qualified applicants. Student Resource Officers (SROs), in particular, have a great opportunity to influence the younger generation. They engage and interact with students daily. Their positive role modeling can influence students to seek a career in law enforcement. Collaborate with the SRO to identify future applicants and engage with these children early, before they make a mistake in their teenage years that prohibit them from becoming an officer later in life. Reward offices who successfully recruit candidates with extra days off or incentive pay if the collective bargaining agreement allows for it.
Remember to utilize community policing programs for recruiting. Police Explorer Programs, Auxiliary Police Units, and Citizens Police Academies are excellent activities. Auxiliary police officers often get a behind-the-scenes view of the job. Encourage them to become ambassadors and aid in the recruitment process. Even if the auxiliary officer is not eligible to join the force, he or she could influence neighbors, friends, or family members to apply.
Strategy 6: Consider Retention
Job satisfaction is the number one factor in retention. Good employees start to look elsewhere when they are not happy, and retaining employees is just as important as recruiting. The first-line supervisor has the most influence on newer officers. They should coach and mentor the officers they supervise constantly and make them feel like part of the team. Workers are more motivated if they look at every day as a chance to learn. Police work is an art, not a science. The law may be black and white, but officers operate in the gray most of the time.
Newer officers require adequate equipment and training, but they also need the freedom to make choices consistent with the mission of the department. If employees are frustrated, they look for other job options. Line and support staff desire to know they can make a difference and contribute to the mission. They are vital to the team.
After a few years on the job, some officers start looking for their identities, and agencies need to keep them interested and involved. It can be beneficial to recommend some for assignment as field training officers, crime scene technicians, criminal investigators, or other specialty assignments, depending on their skill sets.
While these strategies can contribute to stronger recruitment and retention, no quick-and-easy fix to successful recruitment and retention in law enforcement exists. It is an evolving, challenging process that law enforcement leaders must devote time, energy, and resources to.