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What works in retaining and recruiting top-shelf officers

This Minnesota PD is upping its recruitment game by bringing attention to what it does best

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Plymouth PD enjoys a positive relationship with its community through good service and community outreach.

Plymouth PD

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By Laura Neitzel, Police1 BrandFocus Staff

Like most police departments, the Plymouth Police Department in Minnesota is looking for a few good men and women to fill out its ranks.

Staffing shortages have impacted recruitment efforts for many departments across the country – and Plymouth is taking on a more proactive approach to recruiting and retaining top talent. The department is leveraging its well-respected reputation as a progressive, employee-focused, award-winning department with ample career advancement opportunities, a well-rounded wellness program, robust training budget and consistent community support.

“With so many agencies actively recruiting officers, the Plymouth Police Department is doubling down on its efforts,” said Captain Robert Topp, who leads the department’s recruitment initiative. “We are reexamining our policies and practices regarding compensation, benefits and career advancement to ensure that we stay competitive and attract the cream of the crop.”

Minnesota’s seventh-largest city, Plymouth is just 12 miles northwest of Minneapolis and enjoys ample recreational activities for every season, including ice fishing, skating, boating and hiking. The schools are good, the community is family-oriented and the local economy is thriving.

While some of Plymouth PD’s success is by luck of geography, most of what makes Plymouth a desirable place to work and live is by design.

“Plymouth residents have come to know and expect excellence in customer service, and that is a primary focus of the City of Plymouth,” said Emilie Kastner, communications manager for the city. “That carries through all departments, including police.”

Thanks to a communitywide culture that has high expectations for what residents want and deserve from their city – and city leaders that are willing to commit resources to meet those high expectations – Plymouth PD enjoys strong support from the community, which is a benefit not every agency is afforded.

“Plymouth has made a priority of investing in and building relationships with our community members. In turn, we benefit from positive support from our community,” said Topp. “It’s not just the police department – it’s a citywide desire to provide very good service to the community. The support we receive drives us to provide very good service in return.”

Plymouth PD received the national 2020 Voice of the People Award for Safety Excellence, the only national awards program that recognizes local governments based on feedback from residents.

“We don’t lower our standards because we want to maintain a very high caliber of officer,” said Topp. “This allows us to continue offering a high level of service.”

What are they doing right?

Plymouth PD has traditionally attracted highly qualified candidates. But in today’s competitive environment, the department has had to bolster its recruitment efforts.

So what are those perks and benefits that are attracting so many lateral hires and other top candidates to Plymouth PD?

According to TheRandBlog, “Officers want to feel that their organization recognizes their talents and overall contributions. This can be accomplished through career development and leadership growth, such as training opportunities, career mentoring and diversity in assignments.”

This is what Plymouth PD has historically offered. Here’s a closer look.

1. Training

“Thanks to the support of our city council and mayor, the Plymouth Police Department has a robust training budget,” said Deputy Chief David Kuhnly.

“On average, our officers receive about four times the amount of training required by the Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training,” Topp added, “and we are consistently exploring new opportunities to enhance training.”

This goes beyond traditional training methods and includes training designed to strengthen interpersonal communications, de-escalation techniques and leadership skills.

2. Tools and technologies

“We are also fortunate to be equipped with the latest tools, vehicles and technology that the job demands,” said Kuhnly. Plymouth PD is also a primary partner at the North Metro Regional Public Safety Training Facility, a state-of-the-art training facility for firearms instruction. When complete, the facility will include a two-story training lab and video simulator for complete reality-based training.

3. Career enrichment opportunities

The Plymouth Police Department offers a variety of specialized positions available early in an officer’s career. The department provides opportunities to explore various positions, such as K-9 officer, SWAT, computer forensics, school resource officer, reality-based training instructor, UAV pilot and more.

4. Wellness program

The challenges of the profession are drawing attention to the need for mental, physical and emotional support for officers. Plymouth police officers have access to an award-winning wellness program that includes onsite fitness rooms, professional mental health support and chaplains from different faiths. It also offers practical support from financial advisors, as well as other fitness opportunities like jiujitsu classes. Plymouth PD received the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association’s large-agency Excellence in Innovation Award for its three-pronged mind-body-spirit approach to wellness.

5. Work/life balance

In a field like law enforcement, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to disengage entirely, but having 50% of weekends off is a good start. Plymouth PD arranges its patrol schedules to be family friendly so time off is time off to be refreshed.

6. Opportunities for community engagement

Community engagement builds trust. The City of Plymouth created an additional patrol district so officers would have more time to get to know the residents and businesses in the district.

“We’ve also been doing a bunch of other outreach programs like Books With Badges where officers will read to elementary school kids or Bingo With Badges where they’ll go to a senior living community and engage with residents and play games or share crime prevention tips or information about avoiding scams,” said Kastner. “We’ve had a holistic approach to reaching out to the community, and the community in return has responded favorably to us over the years.”

The department also engages with members of the community who may not typically participate in traditional outreach efforts. A program known as Community Conversations with Public Safety offers opportunities for police staff to visit with neighborhoods, cultural groups, faith-based organizations, nonprofits and more. The efforts have encouraged meaningful dialogue, helped the department build trust and relationships in the community, and allowed the department to more effectively serve the community.

7. Valuing input from officers

“We make it a priority to ensure that everyone in the department has an opportunity to provide input,” said Kuhnly. “By listening to that input, our officers feel valued and entrusted to carry out the mission of the police department.”

Plymouth PD’s Wellness Program, Behavioral Health Unit and Traffic Unit were all developed based on ideas and input from officers in the department.

The PPD Approach

It’s clear that in order to recruit quality candidates, implementing initiatives such as wellness programs, providing extra training, equipping officers with the tools and technology they need, fostering a culture where leadership listens, and trying to bring work/life balance back into the profession are necessary.

“While the past few years have been challenging for the law enforcement profession, and Plymouth has also experienced some staffing struggles, we continue to attract top quality candidates, as well as a larger volume of applicants,” said Topp. “After 26 years with the Plymouth Police Department, I believe in the nobility of the profession – and my partners in this department do as well.”

To learn more about becoming a police officer at Plymouth PD, visit

Laura Neitzel is Director of Branded Content for Lexipol, where she produces written and multimedia branded content of relevance to a public safety audience, including law enforcement, fire, EMS and corrections. She holds degrees in English from the University of Texas and the University of North Texas, and has over 20 years’ experience writing and producing branded and educational content for nationally-recognized companies, government agencies, non-profits and advocacy organizations.