Innovative police recruitment strategies take center stage in Las Vegas By:

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This session was co-facilitated by Marvin “Ben” Haiman, Visiting Fellow with Rutger’s University (and Chief of Staff for DC Metropolitan Police Department), and Mike Boward, Sergeant, Fort Collins Police Department. The Global Consortium of Law Enforcement Training Executives (GCLETE) is proud to endorse efforts of law enforcement executives to help build capacity within law enforcement agencies to improve police recruitment, retention and training initiatives.

By Marvin “Ben” Haiman

In late February, over 250 law enforcement practitioners gathered in Las Vegas to discuss innovative recruitment practices as a part of the 13th Police Recruitment and Retention Summit. Participants represented law enforcement from over 35 states and from Canada. While many of the sessions featured individual agency presentations or new unique programs to enhance police recruitment and retention, all participants were able to join in a strategic planning session on the final morning to discuss where their agencies are and where they are heading.

Consistent with the evolving nature of the police recruitment landscape, during the strategic planning session, participants shared some interesting information. Many currently expend the most amount of energy on social media recruitment campaigns, closely followed by traditional job fairs, universities and through their existing officers. Military applicants and traditional applicants lagged further behind, and TV and radio advertisements lagged the furthest (due to cost implications for municipal budgets vs. potential impact).

Session participants painted a bright picture of current recruiting efforts with 66% of respondents saying that their current recruiting efforts are working to improve applicant numbers, with only 17% disagreeing in response. While participants were optimistic about their current efforts, 81% said it as harder to fill vacancies than just five years prior. Only 10% of respondents indicated it was easier or significantly easier to fill vacancies.

With this context, the Strategic Planning Tabletop Session was of critical importance. Often at conferences, participants just “sit and get” information, but this session was different and allowed a dynamic facilitation of ideas, experiences and thoughts for the future to occur.

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The Strategic Planning Tabletop Session allowed a dynamic facilitation of ideas.
  • Recruitment comes down to the culture of the agency. No matter whether agencies were recruiting into a paramilitary or collegial type police academy, agencies had to ensure that their brand was consistent with the officer’s experience on the agency. Building that brand takes careful curation of the message, photos and images, and experiences of the agency’ members.
  • Process, process, process. No matter how creative the message, if an agency’s application process is slow or inefficient, they will lose good quality applicants. If call backs and next steps do not happen quickly, agencies will lose their applicants to the next agency who is able to move quickly.
  • In an era of efficiencies, agencies must maintain standards and be transparent with those selection standards to prospective hires. Lowering the standards — whether it is related to criminal history, drug usage (not about adjusting to changing marijuana legislation), or other factors is not the solution, but is commonly a last-ditch effort to increase applicant numbers at a future cost.
  • The market is competitive. Very few agencies in the room were at their capacity and some had upward of 600 vacancies they were attempting to fill.

In one of the activities, participants were asked to identify a challenge and where they collectively stood on it now. They then identified how they got there and a best- and worst-case outcome for the future. Building to each of those, participants identified five steps along the way to each. We heard groups discuss challenges related to technology, increasing the number of women seeking to join law enforcement and garnering additional military applicants. In common with each of these groups were tangible and pragmatic steps that could be taken to reach these (ideal) outcomes.Participants also had the opportunity to review some scenarios presented before them — involving challenges to ensure diversity of their hires, to increasing the number of female applicants and to improving process efficiency. Participants in table groups debated potential ways to tackle these challenges. Hearing ideas and recommendations, one group suggested working with local universities to review their hiring practices and help support a variety of digital recruitment efforts as having a positive impact.

The session also featured table groups discussing what they believed their agencies should stop, start or continue. In the stop section, there was a lot of discussion about negativity in sentiment from external focuses on the police and law enforcement more broadly. Things to start doing included discussions on implementing technology solutions, new branding and marketing efforts and continue many of the efforts of the participants to build new outreach tools. Almost all participants agreed that updating their website and materials was of importance to their successful operations.

At the end of the session, participants created their own headlines for what they’d like to see following the three-day workshop, what would be true one year and five years out. Answers ranged from “The Agency You Want to Work At,” to “Recruit Classes Have Over 50% Women” to “Implemented New Strategies Filled the Ranks.”

But after all the discussion was said and done, participants recognized that it was leaders, like that were in the room, that had to inspire others to join this profession. We must be the face of why members of our communities want to and should want to join law enforcement. For those that have stayed in, they should be telling their stories of why policing is an honorable profession to help inspire those that are on the fence to join and serve.

WHAT COPS WANT SURVEY RESOURCES: RECRUITMENT & RETENTION

About the author

Mr. Marvin “Ben” Haiman serves as the Chief of Staff for the Metropolitan Police Department. In this capacity, Mr. Haiman oversees daily operations of the Executive Office of the Chief of Police and is responsible for broad agency management and implementing strategic agency objectives. Mr. Haiman is responsible for several organizational units to include the Office of Communications, Office of General Counsel, and the Professional Development Bureau. Mr. Haiman served as the Executive Director of the Professional Development Bureau between 2017 – 2021, leading the Recruiting Division, Metropolitan Police Academy Division, Human Resource Management Division, Disciplinary Review Division, Testing and Assessment Division, Equal Employment Opportunity Division, Office of Communications, and the Strategic Engagement Office (Volunteer Services).

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