Promoters: An opportunity for police recruiters

Turns out not every cop is a recruiter; here's how to focus on those officers who will recommend a law enforcement career


This feature is part of Police1's Digital Edition, What cops want in 2022, which provides a summary and analysis of the results of Police1's State of the Industry survey of 2,376 officers about the support they need from their first-line supervisors, chiefs and sheriffs. Download the complete report here.

Conventional wisdom tells us that the best police recruiters are officers already on the job, but the results of the question, “How likely are you to recommend a career in law enforcement to others?” should cause law enforcement leaders and recruiters to question everything they believe about officer morale, career satisfaction and new officer recruitment.

The career recommendation question in Police1’s 2022 State of the Industry survey asked respondents to choose from 1, not at all likely, to 10, extremely likely. This question construction is a variation of the Net Promoter Score (NPS), which businesses use to gauge the likelihood of customers recommending a product or service to others. The NPS has been adapted to assess employee morale by asking workers how likely they are to recommend their employer/workplace to others.

The NPS groups respondents into three categories:

  • Promoters select 10 or 9 (7% of respondents)
  • Passives select 8 or 7 (15% of respondents)
  • Detractors select 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 or 1 (78% of respondents)

The NPS for a career in law enforcement, the percentage of promoters minus the detractors, of our convenience sample of active law enforcement officers and leaders was -71%. More than a quarter of all respondents, a staggering 28%, selected 1, saying they are not at all likely to recommend a career in law enforcement and outnumbered the respondents who selected 10 by more than six to one. As a frame of reference, any NPS greater than zero is considered good.

It is possible the respondents to the Police1 State of the Industry survey represent the exceptionally pessimistic and disenchanted, but we received a lot of thoughtful feedback from the free text questions from officers who are dedicated to the profession, admire their peers and have high expectations from leadership.

The response pool could be just the opposite. By opting into completing the survey and participating in the future of the profession our respondents represent the most engaged and optimistic police officers.

New officers: A unique opportunity

The NPS for respondents with less than five years of experience was -42%, the best among the five age-based cohorts. The result for officers with 10-20 and 21-30 years of experience were -78% and -76% respectively. These were the largest cohorts in the sample and likely include respondents in middle- and upper-management supervisory positions, who are also tasked with setting recruitment and retention strategies and tactics.

Respondents with less than five years of experience also had the highest percentage of promotors, the lowest percentage of detractors and the highest percentage of passives. Nearly a third (30%) of this group were in the passive category.

Converting these officers from passives to promotors is likely to have a high return on investment for recruiting, as well as the future culture of the organization and its role in the community.

Action steps for police leaders

As a law enforcement leader consider the following action steps for your department:

  • Learn more about measuring employee satisfaction, methods to assess it and how it relates to retention and recruitment.

  • Understand that one-size-fits-all leadership training, morale building and organizational culture improvements might not be suitable for officers with differing years of experience.

  • Regularly assess your department’s NPS for recommending a career as an LEO at your department with an annual employee satisfaction survey.
  • Compare your department’s results to the Police1 State of the Industry survey benchmark.
  • Implement interventions that improve employee morale and satisfaction.
  • Continue to measure NPS change over time and adjust interventions as necessary.

Help answer these questions

Like all research, the results of this question about recommending a career in law enforcement and the State of the Industry survey as a whole leave us with more questions than answers. Additional research is needed to understand:

  • How much do external factors, such as political pressure and media coverage, impact career satisfaction in comparison to internal factors, like the leadership skills and abilities of an officer’s direct supervisor?

  • Why are the least and most experienced police officers most likely to recommend a career in law enforcement?
  • Who are the promoters in your department? How do you identify them? How do you engage them in the recruitment of new officers?
  • What retention efforts, such as paying retention bonuses, implementing peer support programs, leadership training programs or improving internal communications will have the most impact on employee satisfaction?

Not everyone is a recruiter

If 78% of all police officers are detractors, it’s time to throw out the dogma that everyone’s a recruiter. The best recruiters for law enforcement combine a willingness to promote the profession to friends, family and strangers; an ability to honestly discuss the challenges and opportunities to make a difference; and a willingness to design and implement data-informed processes that will bring new officers to the profession. The best next steps depend on your department’s specific needs, but it’s clear that the status quo is unacceptable and unsustainable.

NEXT: The 22 leadership traits cops are looking for in their supervisors in 2022

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