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IACP Quick Take: How to attract diverse candidates to your agency

Since refocusing their recruitment efforts, the Michigan State Police has boosted diversity in their ranks


Pictured is a screenshot from the MSP’s “Hand in Hand” recruitment video.


PHILADELPHIA — Diversity in your police force is a crucial component to a successful agency, but when it’s already a challenge to fill the ranks, attracting female and minority applicants requires a smart and innovative approach. At the 124th International Association of Chiefs of Police Conference, the Michigan State Police outlined the steps they took to get a more diverse applicant pool.


  • Robert Hendrix, MSP Commander
  • Rick Arnold, MSP Lieutenant Colonel
  • Monica Yesh, MSP Captain


Since refocusing their recruitment efforts, the MSP has boosted diversity in their ranks. From the period of 2011 to 2014, 85 percent of the agency was made up of white males. From 2014 to the present, that number has dropped to 75 percent. While the agency says there’s still much more work to be done, this meaningful improvement is a direct result of changes to their recruitment strategies.


1. Make the hiring process easier.

Hendrix spearheaded improvements to the agency’s hiring process, including:

  • Updating their 20-year-old entry exam, a key component of which was eliminating an essay portion that was the cause of a three- to four-month turnaround time for results. Now, results come back in less than two weeks. Consider the passing rate and how long it’s taking to get results back when reviewing your entry exam for potential updates.
  • Going paperless. The entire process is now digital – applicants upload required documents, can check the status of their application and receive direct personalized notifications from the system. Millennials were raised on the internet – don’t turn them off with the inefficient, inconvenient and sluggish paper system.
  • Road shows. The MSP started taking entrance exams, agility testing, and pre-screening interviews to their applicants through partnerships with colleges. No one wants to drive two hours just to take a 15-minute questionnaire.

2. Build trust.

The MSP has partnerships with faith-based organizations, community organizations, schools, veterans affairs and military units to build trust and goodwill with the public, particularly minorities. Since 2012, they’ve held over 60 percent of their recruiting events in urban areas.

3. Listen to and address fears of potential applicants.

Some saw the MSP as an elite agency and believed they were not needed or wanted, or that they wouldn’t qualify. Others feared being assigned a post far away from their home. The agency holds women’s recruiting seminars where part of the focus is on fears and challenges specific to women – how to navigate the difficulties of being a mom and a cop, for example.

4. Think “see to be.”

If you want diversity in your agency, you need to broadcast diversity. The MSP updated all their promotional materials – website, rack cards, recruitment videos and posters – to reflect diversity in the agency.

The women’s recruiting seminars hold Q&As with a diverse panel of female speakers (background, ethnicity, rank, specialty, years in service, etc.) to discuss the nature of the work and how they overcame difficult moments in their careers. The seminars also highlight the history of female officers in the agency.

Applicants need to see themselves in the position – all of the above steps help them build confidence that they can do the job.


One of the key components of the MSP’s strategy is continued communication with recruitment event attendees. Get their contact information the day of the event and follow up – don’t leave people hanging.

Not enough women in your agency to hold a women’s seminar? Team up with other agencies in the area.

The MSP treats recruitment as a job everyone shares, and your best recruiters (and bang for your buck) are out in the field. Your street cops should be actively recruiting because your strongest product is the public seeing you out there in action.

Cole Zercoe previously served as Senior Associate Editor of Lexipol’s and His award-winning features focus on the complexity of policing in the modern world.

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