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12 police recruitment ideas every agency should consider

Oregon law enforcement agency leaders, chiefs shared their police recruiting successes, innovations and resources at IACP

Bend Oregon recruitment-1.jpg

Leaders from several Oregon police agencies shared police recruitment best practices during a session at IACP 2019.

Photo/City of Bend Police Department

CHICAGO – Ideas for recruiting law enforcement and correctional officers were shared by representatives of Oregon law enforcement agencies in the final session at IACP 2019. The agencies were:

  • Washington County (Ore.) Sheriff’s Office
  • City of Bend (Ore.) Police Department
  • City of Eugene (Ore.) Police Department
  • City of Woodburn (Ore.) Police Department
  • Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training

Here is a partial capture of the recruitment actions recommended by the panelists:

1. Fix the department’s reputation

Building and maintaining trusting relationships, adhering to policies and being accountable to the community are critical to a positive reputation. The City of Woodburn needed to make significant changes to improve its reputation as a critical step to recruiting better applicants. Applicants now tell the City of Woodburn that leadership and reputation were more important in their decision to apply than other factors like pay and benefits.

2. Improve department culture and officer well-being

Current officers are a department’s best recruiters. Unhappy LEOs might actively work against recruitment efforts. The City of Bend (Ore.) has used a series of initiatives to improve officer well-being with the added benefit of improving the department’s culture. Some of the Bend well-being programs include:

  • Yoga;
  • On-duty fitness workout facilities;
  • Officer mindfulness training before and after shift;
  • Building an on-duty restorative resting room;
  • Family-friendly work schedules;
  • Spousal support group;
  • Training activities for spouses and children.

3. Identify a department’s key differentiators or competitive advantages

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office revitalized its deputy recruitment by determining what makes the department unique. Some differentiators are strong community support, organizational culture and core values. The panelists discussed the critical importance of having a strong and healthy culture before launching a new recruitment program.

4. Brand the organization

A strong brand creates an emotional connection. Applicants who discover an organization they are emotionally excited to join become advocates and evangelists for the police department.

The City of Eugene strives to create a sense of belonging and calls an applicant’s family after the interview to share their excitement about the family joining the department and moving to the community. A strong brand, matched by the department’s culture and reputation, has made word of mouth the top source of recruits for the City of Eugene.

5. Hire for character and attitude

It’s important to have a list of ideal applicant attributes and then make sure hiring and testing selects for ideal applicants. Washington County has revamped its hiring process, especially the interview panel, to test for empathy, honesty, integrity, resilience and decision-making; character traits the agency believes are the best for the community it serves.

6. Partner with colleges and universities

Recruiters, as well as experts in specific law enforcement disciplines, make numerous campus and classroom visits. On campus, they deliver training, answer questions and describe police career tracks. Question and answer sessions can tell applicants about different positions and functions within the department.

7. Make frequent contact with applicants

Use a diverse recruitment team at different points in the process to make frequent contact. Match these points of contact with milestones in the process, up to and including the date job offers will be made. Washington County applicants have jail and patrol job shadowing during their recruitment. By the time an applicant is hired, they should feel well connected to the agency.

8. Shorten the hiring process

Several panelists urged attendees to look for opportunities to reduce a recruitment and hiring process that might be a year or more to 90 days. Washington County aims for three to four months and the City of Eugene has 90-day hiring cycles that overlap so the hiring process is ongoing. Eugene offers top applicants a conditional job offer on the 34th day of the process.

9. Stand up a dedicated recruitment team

Recruitment team staff should include sworn/non-sworn personnel and team members who are full-time and part-time assigned to recruitment. The team might also include contracted marketing and social media experts for online advertising campaigns or using personnel with advertising and social media skills who might be a part of the city government.

10. Determine which benefits, incentives matter to recruits

A signing bonus might help but other things often matter more to applicants. The City of Bend launched a series of recruiting initiatives over the last five years. A $7,500 signing bonus turned out to be the sixth most important factor for new hires.

11. Make salary and benefits commensurate with experience

If an experienced officer joins the department as a lateral transfer, the City of Woodburn makes pay, vacation and sick leave commensurate with the officer’s total years of experience instead of treating them as a new hire with no experience.

12. Get involved in statewide recruiting efforts

Though agencies compete for applicants, all agencies share an interest in building a pipeline of highly qualified applicants. Part of the recruitment process might be to refer applicants to agencies who better fit the culture and values the applicant is seeking. If an applicant doesn’t match the needs of your organization, it doesn’t mean the applicant is a bad fit for law enforcement. They just need to continue searching for the right law enforcement agency.

Finally, the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training Academy offers an annual career fair featuring representatives from more than 40 departments and grows a pipeline of applicants for all departments.

Learn more about police officer recruitment

Visit the websites of these departments to view their police recruitment techniques:

Additional police recruitment tips and resources from Police1

Greg Friese, MS, NRP, is the Lexipol Editorial Director, leading the efforts of the editorial team on Police1, FireRescue1, Corrections1, EMS1 and Gov1. Greg has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master’s degree from the University of Idaho. He is an educator, author, paramedic and runner. Greg is a three-time Jesse H. Neal award winner, the most prestigious award in specialized journalism, and 2018 and 2020 Eddie Award winner for best Column/Blog. Ask questions or submit article ideas to Greg by emailing him at and connect with him on LinkedIn.