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Embracing a military-style model of service and commitment in police recruitment

This innovative model offers a dynamic solution to recruitment shortages, particularly in larger police departments



In an era where police departments face mounting challenges, including a critical shortage of personnel and evolving societal needs, a transformative approach to law enforcement recruitment and strategy is beneficial and essential.

Inspired by military-style enlistments, a new approach to recruitment may lie with a fixed-term service model in law enforcement that offers an innovative and deeply humanistic path. This model is particularly relevant for larger police departments grappling with significant recruitment challenges and aims to humanize the perception and reality of a career in law enforcement.

The core of the fixed-term service model

At its core, the fixed-term service model is a call to service within one’s community. It proposes that new recruits sign up for a specified period — ideally four to six years — to engage in fundamental police duties. This approach transforms the career path in law enforcement into a more accessible journey. It’s not merely a job but an opportunity for meaningful service in the community one calls home.

Strengthening community ties

The model emphasizes primary policing tasks such as neighborhood patrolling, community engagement, responding to routine calls and conducting basic investigations. This not only streamlines training to focus on essential skills but also reinforces the role of police officers as community members first. It encourages a style of policing that is less about enforcing laws from a distance and more about being part of the community fabric and understanding its unique needs and dynamics.

Personal growth and career flexibility

A key feature of the proposal is its focus on personal growth and career flexibility. After completing their initial term, officers can either continue in their current role, apply for more specialized roles within the force, or take their skills and experiences into new ventures outside the department. This flexibility is appealing, especially for individuals who view law enforcement as a pathway to contribute positively to their community without necessarily making it a lifelong career.

Acknowledging service through pension schemes

Introducing a modified, prorated pension scheme acknowledges the sacrifice and service of those who commit to this form of community service. While different from the lifetime benefits typical of a traditional police career, this pension scheme recognizes and honors the dedication of these community servants, albeit for a shorter duration.

Enriching police forces with diverse perspectives

This model is poised to attract a diverse pool of applicants. By opening up law enforcement to those who might not have previously considered it and making it a finite term of service, the model encourages participation from a broader spectrum of society. This diversity enriches the police force, bringing in varied experiences and perspectives critical for empathetic and effective community policing.

Injecting dynamism into law enforcement

Regular influxes of new officers under this model would bring fresh energy and perspectives to the police force. This dynamism is essential for a law enforcement body that must continually adapt to rapidly changing societal dynamics and technological advancements.

Addressing implementation challenges

The implementation of this model requires careful management of several challenges. Ensuring the long-term financial viability of the pension scheme and managing a potentially higher staff turnover are key concerns. Additionally, maintaining a balance of experience and fresh talent within the police force is vital to ensure continuity and the integration of new ideas and approaches.

A proactive response to personnel shortages

This model presents a proactive and strategic solution to the immediate crisis of personnel shortages in law enforcement. By offering a pathway for career progression and specialization, it aims to retain talent. It ensures that police forces evolve in tandem with societal needs and technological progress.

Educational incentives for broader appeal

The proposal includes educational incentives like reduced tuition at partnering colleges to enhance the model’s appeal, particularly to younger candidates. This mirrors the benefits seen in military recruitment and aligns with broader community and professional development goals. It offers an attractive pathway for those who wish to serve their community while also advancing their education.

A human-centric approach to policing

This fixed-term service model, enriched with educational incentives, represents a comprehensive, human-centered approach to addressing current challenges in law enforcement. It invites community members to play an active, time-bound role in the safety and well-being of their neighborhoods. This model goes beyond merely filling vacancies; it represents a reimagining of the future of policing. It focuses on community connection, personal development and a deepened sense of service.

By adopting this model, we can ensure that our police forces are not only adequately staffed but also more reflective of, and connected to, the communities they serve. This approach is a call to service, a call to become a protector of one’s own community, marking a step towards a more empathetic, effective, and humanized form of law enforcement.

Building a resilient and adaptable force

Incorporating this model into police recruitment and strategy would build a more resilient and adaptable police force. It addresses the urgent need for staffing solutions while also preparing the force for the challenges of modern society. The emphasis on community integration, personal development, and flexibility in career paths creates a policing system that is more in tune with the evolving nature of public safety and community needs.

A model for the future of policing

The proposed fixed-term service model isn’t just a solution for today; it’s a blueprint for the future of policing. It addresses the immediate challenge of recruitment and retention in law enforcement while laying the groundwork for a more dynamic, diverse, and community-focused police force. This model promises a new era in policing, where officers are seen not just as law enforcers but as valuable, integrated members of the communities they serve, with the skills, experience, and perspective to meet the complex challenges of 21st-century policing.

In a world where the role and perception of law enforcement are continually evolving, this model offers a way to bridge the gap between police forces and the communities they serve. It’s an invitation to reimagine policing as a community-oriented, flexible and rewarding path of service — a path that recognizes the importance of diversity, personal growth and a deep connection to the community. This fixed-term service model, with its emphasis on community service, personal development, and adaptability, is a bold step towards a future where law enforcement is more aligned with the needs and values of society.

Jason Piccolo is a retired federal law enforcement agent and former U.S. Army Infantry Captain with wartime service in Iraq in 2006. Jason hosts The Protectors Podcast and can be seen regularly on Court TV.