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August 16, 2022 | View as webpage | Too many emails? Update Subscription Preferences
Leaders,

Over the past two weeks, we've reported on agencies changing tattoo policies and lowering educational requirements to become a police officer in order to attract new recruits, as well as one state spending $800K to help smaller departments cover the cost of hiring and training LEOs. For Officer Shakita Warren of the Alexandria (Va.) Police Department, her hard work as a recruiter is paying off as her agency sends its “largest ever” recruit class to the academy. Meanwhile, the number of NYPD cops who have filed to leave before reaching full pension eligibility has reached nearly 2,000 so far this year, compared to 641 at the same time last year.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the current police recruitment and retention crisis. In today's newsletter, Policing Matters podcast host Jim Dudley (who recently interviewed the CHP about its recruitment best practices) outlines a 13-step plan that could reduce time delays and backlogs for processing police applicants, and Rex Scism examines why current LEOs are throwing in the towel, and how leaders can slow the exodus.

What are you doing at your agency to stem the exodus of veteran LEOs and hire the next generation? Email your success stories and biggest challenges to editor@police1.com.

Stay safe,
— Nancy Perry
Editor-in-Chief, Police1
 
FEATURED CONTENT
A 13-step plan for speeding up the police recruitment process
By James Dudley 

Several variables are driving the current police recruitment crisis. Some of the issues, such as the economy and media criticism of the police, are beyond our control. Still, there are strategies police leaders can implement to increase the number of candidates applying to join departments.

Dedicate resources and develop a recruitment & retention plan

Regardless of the size of the department, agency leaders must devise a strategic plan that addresses short- and long-term police staffing needs. The plan should assess budgetary requirements for recruitment, as well as assess appropriate numbers to adequately staff the agency. The plan should predict attrition based on situational awareness of contemporary issues, and not just rely on historical data trends.

The recruiting manager should have dedicated personnel chosen as the best representatives of the department. Recruiters should be trained to be mentors and able to answer any possible question from candidates. Recruiters should be proactive and personable to engage and encourage candidates. Agencies should analyze their regions to determine the best methods to seek candidates, such as via social media or print media, and the best locations such as local colleges and universities, as well as locations unique to the area (churches, beaches, gyms, road rallies, street fairs, sporting events, community gatherings, military discharge facilities, etc.).

Speed up the recruitment process

Today’s candidate pool wants immediate gratification. The idea of applying for a job that may take up to 12 months or longer to secure is unfathomable for many. The antiquated system of having applicants fill out applications and then follow a testing period for written tests, oral boards, physical agility and medical screening, drug testing, backgrounds, polygraph and psychological testing, is unappealing to today's candidates.

Technology can shorten the police recruit application process. The testing segments mentioned above can be standardized and processed concurrently rather than consecutively. Platforms like interviewnow.io can bring recruiters and candidates together via remote forums that would allow national rather than regional or local recruiting efforts.

Some agencies already speed up the process of candidate eligibility by asking for the candidate’s driver’s license, a hair sample for drug analysis and a brief background biography. Medical waivers to review pre-existing medical conditions may be obtained at this point as well.

Regarding background investigations, software-centric systems from companies such as Guardian Alliance Technologies and Miller Mendel can speed up the process significantly. The idea of having a cadre of file-carrying background investigators doing leg work and waiting for background packets to be returned via snail mail should be a thing of the past.

National testing process and database

As we await the release of President Biden’s $13 billion law enforcement recruiting plan, we can only hope that the plan includes funding for innovation in recruitment. Some of the ideas that could reduce the time delays and backlogs include:

  1. Implementation of a Law Enforcement National Candidate Database containing candidate profiles (age, gender, regional preferences, etc.) accessible to any agency.
  2. Development of national virtual forums for candidates to learn about agencies, testing requirements and expectations associated with the recruitment process.
  3. Creation of a national cost-free application process using a standard Pellet-B test for example.
  4. Partnerships with private sector screening centers to pre-screen applicants.
  5. Cost-free, pre-testing facilities for written, oral and physical agility tests.
  6. Monthly testing to gather baseline levels of aptitude to allow applicants to improve scores.
  7. Physical testing at police academies, public or private athletic gyms, or dedicated state testing sites.
  8. Conducting other tests concurrently upon successful completion of written tests.
  9. Use of software-based background screening.
  10. Expedited tests using any of the accepted truth-telling practices available such as a polygraph, Computer Voice Stress Analyzer, EyeDetect by Converus, or other devices.
  11. Conditional hiring budgets enable offers to be made within 30 days of the written test while other background tests proceed. Candidates would be required to sign injury waivers understanding that failure to pass the background check would result in their release.
  12. Once in the academy, additional funding should be allocated for remedial training, mentoring and retention plans for struggling recruits.
  13. Retention plans should include alternative functions within a department to employ non-graduates of the academy to other positions within the agency (non-sworn positions in administration, security, police-service aids, traffic, community relations, etc.) rather than complete dismissal. This would be an incentive for those resistant to applying to a law enforcement agency at risk of losing their current employment.

Efforts must be made to address the police recruiting crisis as a national issue, not as a local or even regional one. These 13 strategies are a step in that direction.

Next steps: Read national reports

In 2019, the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) released “The Workforce Crisis, and What Police Agencies are Doing About It,” which was followed that same year by an IACP report titled “A Crisis for Law Enforcement.”

Both reports describe similar challenges regarding evolving changes in law enforcement duties around responding to mental health crises, homelessness and collateral social issues such as drug overdoses. The reports also detail issues with decades-old policies and procedures around recruiting and testing.

While neither report offers concrete solutions, police executives can use the documents as a starting point to develop strategies specific to their agency’s needs.

NEXT: Recruitment best practices from the largest state police agency in America

10-Hour Shifts in Law Enforcement: 5 Considerations

 
What is the optimal shift length for an officer? In this report, Rex Scism considers the issues and research into shift length, fatigue and human performance.
 
Read Now
Employee retention: Preventing a “great resignation” in your agency
By Rex M. Scism  

By now, we’ve all heard about the “Great Resignation.” Since August 2021, over 4 million Americans have quit their jobs each and every month through April 2022. This trend is likely to continue as economists noted how there were roughly 65 unemployed workers for every 100 job openings around the end of 2021.

Although these numbers are reflective of all industries, a Police Executive Research Forum special report noted a 5% decrease in hiring rates for police officers throughout the U.S. The same report also highlighted the double-digit percentage increase in both resignations and retirements for the same period.

Beyond a reduction in the labor force, turnover also comes with a big price tag for the agency. The Work Institute estimates turnover costs employers roughly $15,000 per employee. Turnover costs for U.S. employers during 2021 totaled over $700 billion. We know from experience that it costs much more to train and equip those working in public safety. For example, in Florida, costs to train a new police recruit range anywhere from $100,000 to $240,000. This makes employee retention in public safety even more critical.

Why are employees throwing in the towel, and how can public safety leaders slow the exodus?

Onboarding and career development

How new employees are introduced into an organization plays a big role in not only job satisfaction, but also retention. In a 2018 Gallop poll, only 12% of U.S. employees strongly agreed that their organizations did a good job onboarding new employees.

In public safety, bringing new personnel into the fold is a more formal and structured process. Much of this depends on agency policies regarding new hires, with an acknowledgment that some organizations use quick, informal processes to get boots on the ground. According to workplace consultant Robert Gabsa, successful onboarding should accomplish three key aspects:

  1. Employees need to learn what makes the organization unique. In other words, why should they take pride in wearing your uniform? Why should they even want to work for your organization, and what sets your agency apart from others?
  2. Employees need to understand how their specific job helps fulfill your agency’s mission. What is their potential for making an impact?
  3. Employees must experience the mission and values of the agency. This goes well beyond simply knowing your agency’s mission statement. Those are words on paper. Today’s employees need a clear understanding of how their role fulfills the agency’s mission. It’s equally important for them to know why they do what they do and how those efforts fit into the bigger picture.

In 2019, nearly 20% of employees reported leaving their jobs due to lacking career development opportunities. As such, it’s important to understand career development as it relates to employee retention. This includes making sure your personnel have access to different job tasks within the organization, enhancing their individual skillsets, expanding responsibilities within their current positions, and developing new skills that are geared toward or assist with their upward mobility.

Management

Abundant research supports the importance of management and supervision when it comes to employee retention. Simply put, if your agency suffers from toxic or ineffective leadership, your personnel will not stay. And those who decide to weather the storm likely won’t be happy or productive.

A 2021 Gallup workplace analysis found that 52% of exiting employees said their manager or the organization could have done something to prevent them from leaving. According to the Work Institute, 78% of employees said their departure could have been prevented by the employer. Only one-third of former employees said they even had a conversation with their manager about their dissatisfaction before they quit. Sadly, these statistics tell us that one of the biggest reasons employees decide to leave is simply because leadership wasn’t engaged in trying to keep them.

Motivation

Effective onboarding and career development require strong leadership and effective policies. Take away either element and motivation also goes away. Simply put, unhappy employees or those who aren’t challenged while on the job won’t be motivated to perform. And they won’t stay.

While examining ways to reduce turnover in law enforcement agencies, researchers Susan Hilal and Bryan Litsey identified key variables that led to employee dissatisfaction and lacking motivation. These include supervision, working conditions, interpersonal relations and company policies. It’s no surprise that role ambiguity also plays an important role in employee motivation. If your employees don’t know what’s expected of them, they have no incentive to perform. Role ambiguity also comes with significant side effects, which include anxiety, depression, tension, anger, fear, decreased motivation and reduced job satisfaction.

As with most things, the burden to foster employee motivation rests with organizational leadership. If you aren’t engaged and don’t know your people, they will have little incentive to perform. Too often, many organizations focus on extrinsic motivational factors such as compensation. Contemporary research tells us that pay and benefits are only part of the equation. Employers who handsomely compensate employees but don’t invest in their well-being experience as much or more turnover than their lower-paying counterparts. Therefore, it’s essential for public safety organizations to understand and identify ways to leverage the intrinsic motivation in each employee, enhancing job satisfaction through the work itself.

What you can do

Consider these five tips for enhancing retention in public safety agencies:

  1. Make sure you are connected and engaged: This only occurs when leaders know their people and have regular communication. Gallup’s 2021 analysis found that 43% of employees spoke to a coworker about their intent to leave, and 36% were actively looking for another job one or more months before leaving their current employer. This doesn’t just happen, and engaged leaders see the writing on the wall and will have a conversation with their personnel before the situation gets to critical mass.
  2. Be an empathetic leader: This means listening to problems, openly receiving employee feedback and adequately prioritizing your employees’ workload. People like to be heard and they need to feel like you have their backs. Listening and regular communication enhance employee satisfaction.
  3. Empower your people: Identify creative solutions to common problems, and personalize the workload in a manner that leverages employee strengths, while developing their weaknesses. This also means being an advocate for your people. This doesn’t mean acquiescing to every employee’s desire; however, it does require establishing trust and enhancing the rapport among your employees.
  4. Don’t forget about employee recognition: Encourage and inspire your people by recognizing their efforts and celebrating accomplishments. This doesn’t mean participation trophies for everyone, but it does require identification of efforts in such a way your people feel valued and empowered.
  5. Help struggling employees: By knowing your people and remaining engaged, you will also notice when they are not performing up to your expectations or are not happy while on the job. Take time to listen to their needs, while also taking time to focus on their career development aspirations. Although I realize that our policy often guides this process, policy isn’t personal. It takes human engagement to coach and motivate those under our charge. Coaching makes employees feel appreciated, valued and connected to the agency.

Public safety agencies are policy-driven and require a great deal of structure to accomplish their mission, but it doesn’t mean we have to share that rigid mentality in this context. Recognize that people are the single biggest resource we have. We can’t stop all turnover, but excessive turnover comes with big costs to both the agency and the community. It’s important to establish policies that foster adequate onboarding and enhance career development opportunities.

NEXT: Promoters: An opportunity for police recruiters

spacer.gif Top tweet: Next generation recruiting

 
spacer.gif BE ADVISED: Advocacy Efforts

3. Public Safety Action Center: This new resource from the California Police Chiefs Association alerts communities to laws impacting public safety, from the perspective of California's police chiefs, and gives the public an opportunity to take action.

2. How to influence law and policymakers: What can officers and law enforcement advocates do when bad or ill-timed legislation is proposed? Here's how to be an activist and still stay employed.

1. Policy transparency toolkit: Finding ways to proactively share information about law enforcement policies is becoming a key part of police transparency. This communication toolkit provides agencies with the strategies to accomplish that mission.


 
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