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Developing an evidence-based police recruitment video

The visual depiction of a police agency has become critical in gaining brand equity and competing for top talent

Charleston PD recruitment video

While the in-person portion of IACP 2021 has been canceled due to Hurricane Ida, over 100 presentations will be available online. Charleston Police Department Senior Police Officer Terry Cherry and Sergeant Anthony Gibson will present a session on “The Research and Development of an Evidence-Based Recruitment Video.” In this preview, they offer a summary of the main points of their presentation.

By Senior Police Officer Terry Cherry and Sergeant Anthony Gibson

Law enforcement agencies have been creating police recruitment videos and multimedia for years trying to attract qualified individuals to join their ranks. With the omnipotence of social media across countless platforms and a law enforcement hiring crisis joined by agencies grappling with the challenges of having an online presence, the visual depiction of a police agency has become critical in gaining brand equity and competing for top talent.

While considering the creation of the agency’s first recruitment video, the Charleston Police Department’s (CPD) Recruitment and Selection Unit asked how police organizations choose digital content to market their agency to prospective applicants and the community at large. Additionally, the unit asked why specific imagery was picked to showcase agencies and challenged if those decisions had the desired effect of attracting qualified applicants.

In the private sector, companies often conduct a market analysis to understand their customer base so that they can ultimately develop a successful marketing strategy. Companies may also utilize focus groups to gain insight and gauge attitudes about their product.

Through online investigation and communication with other agencies, the unit formulated the hypothesis that these private business practices are rare in the law enforcement industry. Marketing decisions are often either made independently by executive leadership based on traditional beliefs and feelings or in unison with a third-party firm, who depends on executive leadership to determine the focus and vision of digital content.

It was broadly accepted by the unit that its recruitment video be grounded in research and not created based on individual feelings or arbitrary beliefs. Therefore, a collaboration with researchers at Clemson University and the University of South Carolina was formulated to drive the development of the video using evidence-based policing (EBP) methods.

The researchers at Clemson University and the University of South Carolina conducted an experiment examining the impact of police recruiting materials on college criminal justice students’ willingness to become police officers and willingness to become police officers at CPD. The results were analyzed and used to build the recruitment video’s storyline across the backdrop of Charleston while highlighting the various aspects of the department.

In addition to an in-depth look at the research behind the recruitment video, this presentation will review the findings and how they were applied to the project, explain the development of the filming project from beginning to end, describe how the large amount of information gathered was translated into a tangible product, and discuss lessons learned. Finally, the presenters will introduce the next steps of this project and outline the measures to be used to assess the effectiveness of CPD’s recruitment video.

View the Charleston Police Department’s recruitment video, entitled “No Better Time Than Now,” here:


About the authors

Senior Police Officer Terry Cherry has been with the Charleston Police Department in Charleston, South Carolina, for over nine years and is currently serving as the agency’s recruiter. She has been recognized in the National Police Museum for her work of building strategic community partnerships with the low country Spanish-speaking community under the Charleston Illumination Project. In 2019, she was presented with the South Carolina Alliance for Full Acceptance (AFFA) leadership award for her work to increase LGBTQ visibility and equality in the Charleston area. In 2020, she was selected as an NIJ LEADS scholar and was the recipient of IACP’s 40 under 40. She is currently on the working group of the National Police Foundation’s Council for Police Reforms and Race and was recently selected to receive the NAWLEE Ina Mae “Tiny” Miller Award. Her articles have been published in IACP Police Chief Magazine and online for Police1. Officer Cherry holds a BA from UCLA and an MBA from Pepperdine University.

Sergeant Anthony Gibson started at the Charleston Police Department as an intern in 2013 and now serves as the Recruitment & Retention Supervisor. In this role, he manages the department’s recruitment initiatives, the unit’s related research efforts, and the implementation of various talent acquisition strategies. Sgt. Gibson believes in blending the strengths of research and data with the dynamic nature of law enforcement to create precise solutions to modern-day policing challenges. Sgt. Gibson has a B.S. in psychology and a Master’s of Public Administration.