January 20, 2021 | View as webpage

What do cops want in 2021? Police1 set out to answer this with our first State of the Industry survey.

Among the 30+ questions we asked 4,300+ LEOs:
  • What do you find most satisfying about working in law enforcement?
  • What do you find least satisfying about working in law enforcement?
  • What policy and legislative changes do you want?
  • What services should be performed by other government agencies?
“By leveraging the data from this survey to target public information outlets, the truth about who the police are, what they believe, what they are doing and what they hope for the future can serve as a means to advocate for the profession while producing one of many positive, intended consequences: successful recruitment and retention of quality police officers,” observes criminal justice professor and former police officer Janay Casparini, Ph.D.

In today’s Leadership Briefing, Paul Conor, Ph.D., walks readers through how to interpret results from the survey to help convert those officers with 5-10 years on the job into career cops. We also share top tips from 21 on 2021: A police leadership playbook on prioritizing officer wellness, safety and morale - all key to improving job satisfaction, police performance and officer retention.

Download the results of Police1’s State of the Industry survey here.

P.S. Be a mentor. Forward a copy of this newsletter to the officers you supervise and encourage them to sign up as part of their professional development.

Stay safe,

Nancy Perry
Editor-in-Chief, Police1

Converting officers with 5-10 years of experience into career employees
By Paul Conor, Ph.D. 

I'm fairly certain that when you considered becoming a police chief, the question of, “How do I convert my officers with 5-10 years of experience on the job into career employees?” was not at the top of your list. And yet, if you can successfully find an answer to this question, you will also solve several related issues, like succession planning, job satisfaction and maintaining morale.

Let's decode some data to see if we can discover an answer to this important question.

Complex question have simple answers

In September 2020, Police1 conducted its first State of the Industry survey that asked officers around the United States a series of questions concerning their attitudes and opinions on the current and future state of policing. Quite a few officers responded to the survey, 4,367 in total, of which 10% of respondents (416 officers) had 5-9 years in law enforcement. (Download the complete survey here.)

In my 17 years of experience as an organizational psychologist, I have discovered that most of the complex questions my clients ask me have simple answers. This question fits into that category, as does the answer.

If you want to figure out how to retain and convert 5- to 10-year officers into career employees, go back to the beginning of their careers. If you can figure out what attracted them to your department in the first place, then you have discovered the key to unlocking ways of retaining them.

Thankfully, Police1 asked a question that helps us in our quest: “Why did you choose law enforcement as a career?”

The top three reasons that this group of officers chose law enforcement as a career were:

1. Wanted to serve my community

2. Challenges of the job

3. Variability of the job.

This is great news for you! Your target employees have told you how to retain them.

Translating data into action items

Let me translate the data into action items for you:

1. Give them continuing opportunities to serve their communities. They want to engage with their community members and know that they are making a positive impact in the lives of the people whom they serve and protect.

2. Give them increasing levels of responsibility. Challenge them to come up with better ways of doing their jobs and give them the training and support they need to be successful.

3. Give them opportunities to change things up. Let them work in different areas during their shifts and their careers at your department.

I know what you are thinking: Coach, that seems too easy. It can’t be as simple as that. Well, chief, it is that easy and that simple. The truth is that our employees are not telling us anything new. In fact, ALL of the 4,367 officers Police 1 surveyed listed these three things as the reasons for joining their departments. And they are not alone in feeling this way.

Understanding employee motivation

In his groundbreaking book, “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us,” Daniel Pink argued that for jobs like those found in all areas of law enforcement, three elements influence employee motivation: purpose, mastery and autonomy. Pink defines purpose as the desire to do something in service to a cause larger than ones’ self, mastery as the desire to improve at something important and autonomy as the desire to direct one’s own life.

Do those sound familiar? Purpose sounds a lot like serving my community, mastery a lot like challenges of the job and autonomy a lot like the variability of the job. Now, do you see why this is great news? You don’t have to find money to give people raises (although you should always pay your people as much as you can afford). And you don’t have to refurbish your police station or purchase the latest equipment (although you should be budgeting for both of these things every year). Law enforcement has three of the most important employee motivators built into its culture. Your job is to make sure that those motivators are present and that your policies, managers and supervisors are not stifling them.

How do you convert your officers with 5-10 years of experience on the job into career employees? The data says to give them continuing opportunities to serve their communities, ensure that their jobs remain challenging and keep their responsibilities fresh and engaging.

If you need help implementing any of these ideas in your department, feel free to reach out to me. For the past 17 years, I’ve been helping departments of all sizes attract, retain and develop their employees.

NEXT: See more data from Police1's State of the Industry survey.

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Prioritizing your personnel in 2021
By Police1 Contributors 

Police1 asked 21 law enforcement experts to outline solutions for the ongoing and emerging issues facing police leaders and officers in 2021. Following are a few excerpts from "21 on 2021: A police leadership playbook" that focus on how police leaders can prioritize critical personnel issues around officer wellness, safety and morale.  

Access the complete playbook here.

Officer wellness

Departments must prioritize quality time off for officers in 2021. The events of 2020 have made clear that departments can be flexible and creative in staffing. This should continue in 2021 to ensure that officers are given time off to rest, heal, and spend time with loved ones.

Without time away from a job that has become increasingly stressful, and frequently unrewarding, the level of burnout and poor mental health rises. Families become strained when officers fail to get quality time at home, furthering the negative impact on mental health and risk for divorce.

Time off cannot be entirely based on seniority, as young officers with families are equally in need of time away. While this may be a challenge for understaffed departments, failure to respond adequately to the current mental health crisis of the workforce will result in far worse outcomes in the new year.

Read more: Addressing high rates of mental illness among officers

Dr. Michelle Lilly is co-director of the Training and Research Institute for Public Safety (TRIPS) and an associate professor of clinical psychology at Northern Illinois University.

Officer safety

According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF), the COVID-19 pandemic was responsible for a historic increase in health-related, line-of-duty deaths in 2020. 

In 2021, law enforcement agencies should ensure that their officers are both physically and mentally resilient. To improve officer safety and wellness, local, state, federal and tribal agencies must have the ability to provide the proper equipment, training and services necessary to protect their most valuable assets, their employees.

One essential tool that is available to all organizations is the Destination Zero Safety Resource Center. This online repository contains downloadable brochures, information, posters, presentations and videos from over 250 nationally recognized officer safety and wellness programs. Integrate these best practices into your agency’s health and safety programs.

Read more: Why officer safety must be a top agency priority

John Matthews is Executive Director of Law Enforcement Initiatives at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, a former police chief and 37-year law enforcement veteran, and law enforcement analyst for CNN and FOX NEWS.

Officer morale

Police leaders should intentionally focus on improving the quality of their communication.

The modern environment is characterized by high levels of speed and interconnectivity, which poses significant challenges for contemporary leaders who are attempting to build and maintain aligning narratives. While the sheer volume of information is practically limitless, a failure on the part of leaders to effectively message their intent in an intelligible and coherent manner is directly correlated with low employee morale and disengagement.

An essential function of leadership is to inspire high engagement, and clarity is a prerequisite for the type of high-functioning culture necessary to contend with today’s toughest policing challenges. Leading in complexity is an improvisational undertaking, and leaders seeking to perpetuate a culture of engagement and high morale should invest in growing their ability to communicate their vision and intent creatively and precisely.

Read more: 5 reasons why morale is bad at your agency

Major Charles “Chip” Huth has 29 years of law enforcement experience and currently serves as the Commander of the Kansas City (Missouri) Police Department’s Traffic Division.


spacer.gif BE ADVISED
3. Early lessons from the Capitol Building attack: A public building protest should not surprise any police leader, especially when organizers clearly state that as their intent.

2. Public employee speech and consequence of unlawful action: When does a public employee’s First Amendment rights give way to an employer’s right to suspend or terminate the employee?

1. Critical planning for high-profile events: Avoiding planning failures at large events with dignitaries present.
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