NEW JERSEY: Recruiting good police officers is tough. More often than not it is a thankless job. Current media frenzy surrounding the racially charged allegations of George Floyd’s death, makes it significantly more dangerous than it ought to be.
When an officer puts on his vest, laces up his boots, shoulders his sidearm, and dons his cap and badge he must think about the long trail that it took to get to that point. Becoming an officer does not happen overnight.
It’s not like working at CVS or Wawa where you can apply and begin that very next week.
Public Policy considerations
For policymakers, however, it is even more challenging. Providing the right to use deadly force, and conveying the responsibility of maintaining a safe and peaceful community to a select few individuals includes a number of operational decisions. Decisions that must be made by administrators and US Department of Justice officials.
Former Governor Chris Christie, (R) New Jersey recently praised the Camden City Police for its administrative improvements. The city long ranked as the number one city for crime in America is working hard to change public perception. With his committed leadership and political support, the city was able to shake its negative image.
According to most experts, one has to consider not just the physical elements of the job, i.e. chasing criminals, managing protests and riots, the reflexes to handle high-speed chase scenarios; in addition to the psychological elements of settling heated domestic disputes, the emotional toll on the individual’s family, the stress factor that most officers conceal managing the enormous amounts of threats to their personal safety interacting with the less civilized and more lawless members of society.
Requirements are job-specific and develop out of a need for special tasks. Evolving needs both community and enforcement policies driven by administrators cross-referencing tools in the recruitment process.
Filling those gaps with the right personnel establishes the protocols for the next generation of recruits reducing the rate of attrition and employee turnover.
Police recruiting statistical ratios
Speaking to a senior member of law enforcement I quickly discovered that there is a ratio or ideal balance between police to the civilian population. That rate is about 2-3 officers to every 1,000 civilians, less than one percent. Of course, numbers vary by region and by ethnocentricity.
However, reports indicate that some areas have one white officer for every 100 white residents. One Latino officer for every 3,000 Hispanic residents.
Officers are always lost to attrition.
Unlike most regular occupations the turnover rate is oftentimes a result of doing one’s job.
Turnover ranges from six percent in areas like Vermont to 14 percent in states like North Carolina. Attrition usually results from lack of satisfaction or commitment sometimes stemming from compensation and bureaucracy, among other issues.
The minimum qualifications such as a clean criminal record, little to no drug use, good physical and financial health are eliminating increasing numbers of potential candidates as obesity levels rise and fiscal constraints make more competitive job offers the first choice.
Contiguously, global threats are widening the scope of the roles police officers play in the national security agenda and the number of skills they need to adequately perform the role of the police officer.
Police recruiting steps
The first step is usually the most tricky. That is reaching potential recruits and assessing their abilities for the various job functions required by the major special branch of the police. It requires building unique relationships with the candidates. Relationships that could take years to foster and countless hours of interaction to truly solidify.
Youth programs are a traditional means of conducting that initial outreach. Allowing officers to forge the basic training and partnerships to entice young recruits. Allowing senior officers the chance to identify candidates with exceptional skills makes it worthwhile.
Policing is a serious business. Sometimes it’s life or death. Law enforcement agencies only want the best credible competent candidates.
Second, is selection. Which is more formal. The selection process requires patient navigation of physical, mental, and aptitude screening examinations, and interviews. Submitting to a thorough background investigation is also mandatory. The crucial task for agencies is to use selection methods that reveal the best possible recruits for department needs.
Supervising and administrating officers’ focus inevitably revolves around candidates that are most likely to stay within the department. Individuals dedicated to larger goals and more exotic appetites will usually float at their own discretion.
In house versus external recruiting.
In house recruiting is employed on a routine basis. This is supplemented with external recruiting such as websites, career fairs, and other forms of digital and print advertising.
College Internship Program
Trooper Youth Week
Testing knowledge-based and psychological tools
Police officers inevitably have to learn the legal statutes promulgated by the local jurisdiction, state legislatures, and federal regulators.
Above all else, their job is just that. Being an effective reminder to society of what is and what is not legal in given circumstances.
The more accomplished one is at the task of law enforcement, the closer to the interpretation and implementation of the legal code one inevitably becomes.
Psychological tests determine the candidate’s mental fitness and highlight any irregularities that would prohibit them from fulfilling their responsibilities as a police officer. It generally includes a questionnaire and a polygraph test.
The combination of quantitative, knowledge-based assessments, and determining a candidates moral and ethical values provide administrators a clear picture of the candidate’s overall strengths and suitability for the position.
Best practices in police recruiting
The department’s image is critical. Establishing a good public image helps police departments recruit more professional candidates.
Targeting women and minorities with specific recruitment events shows the close-knit community involvement needed to establish trust. It is rated high among the number of best practices.
Policing is not easy. Approximately 80 percent of recruits complete the police academy and go on to become police officers. It is a time-honored tradition to some because it inevitably saves lives. That is why it is important to remember that implementing a better police recruiting strategy can avoid another George Floyd tragedy.