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Some departments might be tempted to turn to an outside video agency for help with their content, but Sergeant Benson firmly believes there’s an in-house advantage.

DC Metropolitan Police Department

New problems require new solutions. For many in law enforcement, the hiring crisis that’s prevailed across the country is unlike anything ever seen before. With such a daunting challenge to overcome, agencies have had to get creative when it comes to recruiting new officers.

Years ago, more traditional recruitment methods like meeting candidates at job fairs were typically sufficient. But with more and more Generation Z individuals entering the workforce, departments have found they need to think outside the box. Many, like the DC Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), have turned to social media as a way to reach potential candidates through recruitment videos.

These videos, which can be as short as 30 seconds or span several minutes in length, have been the key to MPD’s recruiting success. In fact, the agency created a new unit several years ago devoted to such efforts, with Stephen Benson, MPD sergeant and lead recruitment marketing video specialist, spearheading the program.


Over the last several years, Benson has used trial and error to determine how to best capture interest from potential candidates. He emphasizes that a broad marketing plan has been most effective, targeting both those who are just browsing for opportunities along with those who are highly interested in a career in law enforcement.

The department produces videos for a wide range of platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and even LinkedIn, yet finds that more traditional videos still get the most attention.

“We’ve grown a lot year to year to get where we are filming such high-level content, but we are still producing some great content on Instagram and Facebook Reels,” said Benson. “I was doing videos on my cell phone before we hired a videographer to be my partner. The funny thing about that is that I think the cell phone videos still get the most views because people are used to looking at the full frame.”

Some departments might be tempted to turn to an outside video agency for help with their content, but Benson firmly believes there’s an in-house advantage.

“You can make more intimate pieces when you do them yourself,” he said. “If you’re spending $50,000 to have an agency do a video, you’re not going to tell that small little intimate story because you just put so much money behind it.”


Benson doesn’t go it alone when developing recruitment video ideas and works with a team to brainstorm upcoming content plans. MPD has found success through two different categories of video: direct recruiting videos and indirect recruiting videos.

Direct videos are often shorter, around 30 seconds or so, and include a quick pitch encouraging viewers to join MPD. Content is usually faster-paced and may have dramatic music or several short action scenes spliced together. Here’s an example of one of MPD’s direct recruiting videos:

On the other end of the spectrum, indirect videos can run up to several minutes in length and aim to tell a story. “You’re trying to take the audience on a journey or an experience they can connect with,” explained Benson. MPD often creates indirect videos that feature a day in the life of an officer or, in the examples below, officer recruits.

A day in the life of a DC Metro PD officer recruit
Part 1
On Now
Part 1
On Now
Part 2
On Now
Part 3

It’s recommended that agencies not limit themselves to only a few types of storylines. Some indirect pieces produced by MPD include public information or educational videos where an officer might bring awareness to opioid overdoses, for example. While this content may not seem like it relates directly to recruitment, it still allows viewers to understand what it’s like to be an MPD officer.

“The thread through all of our videos is recruitment because I’m still taking the audience on a journey,” Benson said. “I’m letting you get to know this department in different facets because we want to show diversity and opportunity at our agency.”


Many perceive equipment to be a significant barrier that prevents departments from developing recruitment video content, but these pieces of marketing can be produced in-house for a surprisingly low cost.

When Benson first started making content, he filmed everything on his iPhone. Additional accessories might come in handy, like a video stabilizer or better-quality microphone, but they certainly aren’t necessary.

After capturing your footage, a plethora of inexpensive tools can be used for editing. Benson recommends Luma Fusion, which is available for $29.99 in the Apple or Google app store, or Adobe Podcast AI, a free option that helps reduce background noise in your recordings to create a more professional-sounding piece.

OpusClip AI can also act as an easy-to-use editing tool with plans starting at $19 per month, while Canva’s graphic ability offers a way to further customize your videos. The editing process might take a little time depending on your approach, but there are a few elements that are worth considering.

“We always need to put music in the videos because people on social media are used to that,” said Benson. “If you don’t have music, they’re not even really able to connect with the video. We also do combinations of narration, which could be a different voice in the background explaining something or a mix of someone talking on camera for an interview and then you might hear their voice in the background later in the video. It just depends on what we’re trying to convey.”


Some agencies might be able to get away with making a few videos that feature fast police cars and scenic shots of their city, but eventually, people need to be included in recruitment videos. Instead of running a time-consuming casting call, MPD turns to their own people for help.

“Everyone we have in every video is in-house, even if we have people acting,” Benson explained. “The kids in videos are officers’ kids and the people you see in the background are our officers in plainclothes.”

Enlisting your own staff to star in recruitment content achieves several objectives – not only do officers have incredible stories that are worth highlighting but involving them in your efforts acts as a morale booster. When you give officers an opportunity to be featured in a project, they feel recognized and appreciated. More often than not, they will be inclined to share the video on their own social media accounts, naturally furthering your content’s reach.


Benson and his team know their videos are making an impact, not only by measuring views but also by feedback from potential officer recruits. When a candidate says they saw an MPD video and wanted to learn more, the department knows they’re doing something right.

It’s not just candidates who notice MPD’s efforts though, as one of the agency’s videos was selected by readers as the 2023 top recruitment video of the year.

“It shows the 24-hour day of an officer, including showing them outside of uniform,” said Benson. “One of the things I like to do is humanize our officers, show them throughout their day and let people connect with them. If your public can connect with them, then you foster more dynamic relationships with the community and you have people saying, ‘Oh, I can be a police officer. I would like to do this too.’”

Watch MPD’s winning video below:


Even if you’re part of a very small agency or you have a limited budget for recruitment content, you can still get started with relative ease. Benson suggests visiting local high schools and colleges to find those who are interested in an internship-type opportunity. In many instances, the schools already have equipment that can be borrowed and students will be motivated to earn credits and add the experience to their resume.

“I would also say to look internally – your best influencers are already in your department,” he added. “Those younger officers that have come in with technology their whole careers, those officers that are always posting pictures of themselves in uniform – maybe that’s the person you need to talk to about doing videos.”

Visit The Metropolitan Police Department for more information.

Read next:
Today’s candidates aren’t looking for the same things they used to
Metropolitan PD is moving the needle on recruitment thanks to a few strategies your agency can adopt

Courtney Levin is a Branded Content Project Lead for Lexipol where she develops content for the public safety audience including law enforcement, fire, EMS and corrections. She holds a BA in Communications from Sonoma State University and has written professionally since 2016.