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IACP 2023 preview: This Calif. PD has the ‘secret sauce’ when it comes to recruitment, hiring and retention

Successful recruitment in the 21st century requires an authentic approach to connect with each candidate instead of following a checklist of things to do and incentives to offer


As of June 27, 2023, the Hermosa Beach Police Department is fully staffed at every position.

Photo/Hermosa Beach PD Facebook page

On Saturday, Oct. 14 from 4-5 p.m. PST, Chief of Police Paul LeBaron, with the Hermosa Beach (Calif.) PD will present his session, “Recruitment, Hiring and Retention Into the 21st Century: A Success Story Through Culture Change,” in Room 6E at IACP 2023 in San Diego, Calif.

This presentation will provide real examples from the police recruitment team on how they recruited a diverse pool of quality applicants and have set the stage for the next generation of leadership in the department. A focus on changing the internal culture, using social media and meeting the unique needs of today’s applicants will be presented. The roles of the chief of police, command staff, frontline supervisors, recruiters and human resources personnel will be outlined.

Click here for more information on Chief LeBaron’s session, as well as others being presented during IACP 2023.

By Chief Paul LeBaron

The Hermosa Beach (California) Police Department (HBPD) is a 1.5-square-mile, high-density, beautiful coastal city that is popular among tourists and locals year-round. With a budgeted staff of 38 police officers and 30 professional staff, HBPD is tasked with protecting a vibrant city with an ever-fluctuating population.

Like other small police departments, HBPD experiences a significant challenge when staffing levels are low. In 2020, HBPD experienced a 37% staffing shortage. Additionally, the department had to plan for the anticipated retirement of numerous senior officers and supervisors within two years.

HBPD was facing a catastrophic staffing crisis that could not be solved through traditional recruitment, hiring and retention strategies. The department recognized that the quality employees who had been hired were leaving for better opportunities and too many candidates were failing to successfully complete their probationary period.

The crisis was not a result of ineffective recruiters or FTOs. Instead, the problems were directly attributed to a lack of leadership and a failure to protect the organization’s culture. The responsibility to improve rested on the shoulders of the command staff and city management team who focused on culture change to recruit, hire and retain quality employees into the 21st century.

Culture Change as a Solution

In April 2020, a new command staff team was assembled and the culture shift began. The change in culture included four cornerstones:

  1. A relevant mission, vision and core values supported by the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics and Sir Robert Peel’s Principles of Policing.
  2. Ensuring the right people were given opportunities to lead through a fair and merit-based selection process.
  3. Establishing a comprehensive wellness program that is more than a “checkbox.”
  4. Do the right thing, no matter what!

The cultural shift began slowly, as it meant long-standing traditions were challenged and self-centered, ego-based leadership was no longer acceptable.

As the culture began to shift, new organizational values started to take shape. A common bond around department BBQs, including a challenge to the local fire department, created a focus on teamwork and organizational pride.

Cultural traditions began to form, including interactive squad meetings where everyone had a voice. Additional opportunities for sworn and professional staff through collateral assignments were created.

Every employee was required to declare an allegiance to one of the Southern California baseball teams. And the social media team was challenged to highlight the proactive work being done by HBPD, and “tell our story” to an audience that included the Hermosa Beach community and future employees.

In short, the workplace became a destination where fun, innovation and hard work were valued. HBPD employees shifted from saying, “We’re just Hermosa” to, “We ARE the Hermosa Beach Police Department.”

New Approach to Hiring

With a culture shift in place, recruitment and hiring came with new challenges.

Instead of seeking out candidates, staff was overwhelmed with responding to the increased inquiries from interested job seekers. In June 2022, HBPD established an internal recruitment team that included a part-time officer, HBPD sergeant and the human resources team.

Their efforts focused on creating a new and innovative approach to recruitment that would solve HBPD’s staffing crisis. The recruitment efforts were centered on two themes. First, “every candidate matters” and second, “there is no such thing as a secret sauce.”

Successful recruitment in the 21st century requires an authentic approach to connect with each candidate instead of following a checklist of things to do and incentives to offer.

The recruitment team adopted a “21st-century recruitment mindset” that enlisted an innovative approach to hiring quality employees. The team’s focus centered on three key areas.

  1. Ensure that candidates have a consistent point of contact.
  2. Ensure that candidates experience authentic interactions with department and city staff.
  3. Ensure that candidates are given opportunities to provide immediate value to the organization.

21st Century Outcomes

From June 2022 through June 2023, the Hermosa Beach Recruitment Team conducted 11 recruitments for all HBPD positions, processed 622 applications, conducted 31 background investigations and hired 26 new employees.

As of June 27, 2023, the Hermosa Beach Police Department is fully staffed at every position and has a waiting list for candidates who have expressed interest in working for the police department.


Law enforcement leadership is in a unique position to change the profession for good. A culture that holds strong core values will result in tangible results and success in hiring, recruitment and retention during a time when many agencies struggle to maintain staffing.

Hiring incentives and flashy recruitment videos are temporary solutions that require little effort. For success to truly take place, leadership is required. And that is anything but easy!

NEXT: IACP 2023 preview: How effective interaction with Muslim, Middle Eastern populations can increase recruitment, officer safety and police-community relations

About the author

Paul LeBaron is the Chief of Police for the Hermosa Beach (Calif.) Police Department. His 31-year career includes 27 years with the Long Beach Police Department and the past four years as Chief of Police in Hermosa Beach. Paul is an adjunct faculty member at California State University, Long Beach in the Administration of Justice Department, a trainer at the Simon Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance and a graduate of FBINAA Class #261. Paul is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach with a degree in Communication Studies. He earned his master’s degree in management and organizational leadership from American Military University and a Graduate Certificate in Criminal Justice from the University of Virginia. He emphasizes employee wellness and a strong culture of ethical policing.