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Embracing new technology helped this Iowa PD attract more candidates

Find out how their combination of advanced investigative tools and efficient processes can benefit your agency


Sponsored by Guardian Alliance Technologies

By Courtney Levin, Police1 BrandFocus Staff

Mason City, Iowa is a small city of approximately 28,000 people and sits halfway between Minneapolis and Des Moines. With a police department of 48 sworn officers, it’s considered fairly small by national standards.

Mason City PD has saved untold amounts of time and energy by using Guardian Alliance Technologies software during all phases of their recruitment process.
Mason City PD has saved untold amounts of time and energy by using Guardian Alliance Technologies software during all phases of their recruitment process. (Mason City PD)

Many officers help with the recruitment process in Mason City, and for years, Chief Jeff Brinkley has taken a hands-on role. His eye has long been focused on efficiency and ways to make the hiring process more straightforward. The more streamlined their recruitment can be, the better chance his department will have of hiring the area’s top candidates.

Three years ago, Brinkley recognized an opportunity to change some of his department’s testing processes to engage the best candidates. Rather than completing written and physical fitness testing along with interviews only once per year, Mason City PD tests more frequently.

“We have to test when we have openings,” said Brinkley. “The candidates that I'm chasing right now, other Iowa law enforcement agencies are also chasing. We're all in that game of getting to them first with an offer.”

Mason City PD devotes an entire weekend to physical and written testing as well as interviews to streamline their hiring process, but that’s not all. The way they complete their application and investigation process has become even more efficient since they implemented background investigation software from Guardian Alliance Technologies.

BETTER RESULTS FROM GOING DIGITAL

For decades, background investigations conducted during a department’s hiring process were tedious. If the paperwork involved wasn’t enough of a burden, the time spent following up with candidates and talking with an applicant’s references was often lengthy.

Now, departments like Brinkley’s can use a suite of digital investigative tools from Guardian Alliance Technologies to cut the hiring process down from months to weeks.

“I think the biggest impact for us is how much time we save in that process,” said Brinkley. “I've done a couple of our civilian backgrounds for new hires for the administrative part of our department, and I've completed the bulk of that background in three days.”

Not only is it appealing to save time from an administrative standpoint, but the increased speed with which Mason City PD can complete their background investigations has changed their overall level of success during the hiring process.

During their last recruitment, Mason City PD completed their entire hiring process in 66 days from the date of their first tests, a huge improvement from their usual four-month timeframe.

“Three of the eight people we hired were in the recruiting process with other agencies, and we got all three of those to come to us because of the timeliness of our offer,” said Brinkley.

There aren’t a lot of agencies moving at this speed, he says, so Mason City PD is seizing that opportunity to be the most efficient.

The suite of tools they use from Guardian Alliance Technologies provides a digitized hiring process from start to finish for both applicants and agencies, ensuring that no step is forgotten. Candidates can complete their personal history questionnaire online and upload documents as part of their application.

“It’s very helpful for us to see what the applicant is doing and what our investigator is doing,” said Brinkley. “There’s a log that goes along with each investigation, so you know when things get done, who did them and how it gets tracked.”

PUTTING EVERYONE’S BEST FOOT FORWARD

First impressions matter during any hiring process, and law enforcement candidates typically want to do everything in their power to make themselves an attractive hire.

Even minor details, like the picture that accompanies an application, have been considered by Guardian Alliance Technologies’ software. Instead of departments taking headshots of each candidate themselves, applicants can upload an image they like best.

“It’s a chance for them to share themselves in their best light with the picture they choose,” said Brinkley. “Little things like that help them build who they are as they come into our agency.”

Equally important is the impression that hiring agencies make upon potential candidates, particularly ones who may be just starting their law enforcement careers. Aaron Burnett, city administrator in Mason City, notes that attracting quality candidates starts with the application process.

“You want to look like you’ve got your stuff together when you go recruiting people,” said Burnett. “A higher level of polish is good, especially as you’re talking to younger candidates. You don’t want to ask them to mail in a paper application.”

Mason City PD doesn’t just use the tools from Guardian Alliance Technologies during the initial application process. Several features of the software help to streamline each step until a candidate is hired.

A VARIETY OF HELPFUL TOOLS

To make the hiring process more efficient, it’s wise for departments to use as many automated tools as possible when conducting background investigations. Brinkley finds a few of them particularly beneficial and says they allow reviewers to gain a better understanding of each candidate’s history.

Once an applicant has completed his or her PHQ and uploaded any necessary documents, Brinkley can compile a candidate’s data into a single digital report and even generate a PDF and send it to the department’s polygrapher and psychologist.

“The ability to generate reports in a PDF format and share with our partners outside of the department, such as polygraphers and psychologists, has become a really useful tool for us to completely evaluate someone,” said Brinkley.

“Having insight into the report really helps provide a 360-degree view on the candidate and support their polygraph or psychological exam,” he continued. “We don’t necessarily bump someone out just because of a polygraph result or just because of a psychological result. Typically, when we’re finding things that are knocking people out of our process, we’re seeing themes that start in the background that carry over to the other assessment tools.”

This robust reporting and formatting feature is combined with the ability to perform a Free Triage on the applicant as well as run a thorough social media screening. Departments can also check applicants against several databases, including the National Applicant Information Center (NAIC) and the National Decertification Index (NDI). Together, these tools can flag potential concerns and give Brinkley the information needed to weed out bad apples before presenting them with an offer.

Ultimately, Mason City PD has saved untold amounts of time and energy by using Guardian Alliance Technologies software during all phases of their recruitment process.

It takes a “paper and pencil, put a letter in an envelope, send it off and wait for it to come back to you” kind of approach and makes it all digital, says Brinkley, which provides the efficiency he was looking for.

“I think agencies have to be agile and willing to look at new ways of doing old processes, and this is one that has worked out really well for us,” he said.

Visit Guardian Alliance Technologies for more information.

Read next: How this free hiring tool aims to elevate the law enforcement industry

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