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Report details how youth programs can reshape law enforcement recruitment

A new report by the COPS Office highlights effective strategies for engaging young people in law enforcement careers

By Police1 Staff

As law enforcement agencies continue to grapple with recruitment and retention challenges, innovative strategies are essential. The “Youth Law Enforcement Experience Programs as a Potential Recruitment Pipeline” report, funded by the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) and conducted by RAND in partnership with the Law and Public Safety Education Network, offers a comprehensive look at how youth programs can serve as a vital recruitment conduit.

The idea behind the report

The report investigates the potential of youth law enforcement experience programs — such as internships, camps and educational courses — as a strategic approach to attract and nurture future officers.

By providing a structured pathway from youth engagement to career entry, these programs aim not only to fill the ranks but also to foster community-oriented policing by integrating officers who understand and reflect the communities they serve.

Why it matters to law enforcement

The report provides a blueprint for addressing these issues proactively by building connections with young people at an influential stage. Engaging youth in positive law enforcement experiences can help to demystify policing careers, correct misconceptions, and build a pipeline of well-prepared candidates who are more likely to be committed to their roles and to the principles of community policing.

5 things to know about the COPS report

  1. The report offers an extensive census of existing programs, providing valuable data on the scope and nature of youth engagement across the country. This helps agencies identify gaps in their current strategies and opportunities for new initiatives.
  2. It outlines practical steps for the successful implementation of youth programs. This includes advice on securing funding, structuring programs to maintain interest and commitment, and ensuring that they are inclusive and representative of community diversity.
  3. One of the standout features of the report is its emphasis on the importance of networking. It encourages agencies to connect and share insights, which can lead to improved program designs and implementation strategies based on proven successes.
  4. The report highlights how these programs can directly impact recruitment by creating a more informed and prepared applicant pool. This is particularly relevant in an era where the reputation of law enforcement has been challenged and traditional recruitment tactics may be less effective.
  5. A focus on creating ongoing engagement opportunities that bridge the gap between program completion and eligibility for academy training. This continuous engagement helps maintain interest in a law enforcement career and supports retention efforts.

Find the complete report below and online here.

Additional police recruitment strategies

Discover essential strategies for improving law enforcement retention with Gordon Graham. In this video, Gordon outlines five actionable steps that leaders can implement to keep their teams engaged, supported and committed to their roles.