Long Term Recruiting Solutions: Stop complaining and do something

Updated: July 24th, 2006 09:41 AM EDT

In past articles I discussed basic recruiting techniques. In reality, recruiting is a long term process. In this article, let’s talk about some long term solutions and thinking outside the box to solve the problem.

First, let’s understand how the system works or doesn’t. A department has an authorized strength. Testing and hiring are generally handled by Personnel or Human Resources and to a smaller degree by the law enforcement agency. That means the cops have to work hand in hand with the HR folks.

Also noteworthy is that few agencies are authorized to try to hire beyond their authorized strength, but within budget. No one ever reaches that magical point in a moderate-size agency. With terminations, retirements, military and maternity leave, injuries; full strength is a myth. Administrators need to convince the entity to authorize over strength.

Almost all testing processes involve a written test, oral, agility, physical, polygraph, background, and maybe a second oral.

Changing the rules

Other than “that’s how we always have done it,” why not waive the test for those with a two- or four-year degree, certain high military scores, or lateral applicants with POST certificates? Why not allow military personnel to take the test at their local base testing office?

The lieutenant who was in charge of testing at the agency from which I retired made it as easy as possible for applicants to complete the process. Applicants took a written test. Those were scored on scene and passing applicants went behind one of three doors and took their orals from waiting board members. The agility was done earlier the same day. Background forms were completed and the polygraph administered for out of town applicants. Yes, almost everything was done in one weekend. Many out of town cops were hired almost on the spot. One lateral cop said, “I could have never taken the time off or afforded multiple trips.”

The LA Airport Police allow drop-in testing. Test when you are ready!

Meanwhile Department X is stuck in reverse with a process strung out over many months.

Got a real good candidate? Don’t want to lose him or her? Why not hire them right away? Now some of you have read enough and are thinking, “no way, this guy is crazy”. You can go back to doing it the same old way and expecting different results. For the rest, read on.

No, you don’t hire them as a police officer. You hire them as a temporary employee. Use a title like “police candidate” or “cadet.” The temporary employee can receive a quick background, a polygraph, and be assigned to station duty, assisting dispatch, watching and learning, etc. The idea is to not lose them!

While subject to legal limitations, an agency may consider an employment contract, not only regarding length of service without penalty, but other factors where the employee should be put on notice, such as standards of conduct, fitness standards, etc.

A progressive agency will offer pre-test orientation, including advice, station tours, on-site advice on passing the physical agility, etc. Let applicants have a dry run and get pointers.

Do you really need more cops?

Do your cops take accident reports, direct traffic, handle small in-station fraud investigations? Who staffs Internal Affairs? Are your background investigators sworn? Many of these positions could be handled by Community Service Officers (CSO’s), cadets, or other civilians.

Many retired or former cops would gladly conduct backgrounds, internal investigations, arrange training, etc. By having former supervisors in a civilian IA position, it takes the heat off a sergeant or lieutenant who later has to work with or for those he/she investigated.

Personally, I think CSO positions should include almost all the career broadening assignments found in police work, such as investigations (in-station support), backgrounds, traffic, training, etc.

Getting creative

The Reno Police Department uses former or retired officers for certain uniformed, armed, part-time functions such as walking patrol. Sgt Mike Kendig retired after 30 years service and now walks a foot beat for the same department. “It doesn’t tie you down, we can leave and come back. I still have time for motor-homing,” he said. Other officers left for family reasons but would gladly work part time if possible.

Real long term recruiting

There just are not enough good applicants to go around. Real long term recruiting involves planning years out. This involves a variety of youth programs. Even sports activities such as PAL should point youths toward considering a career in law enforcement. Police Explorers provide a pool of potential candidates, but most of these kids are already interested. Recruiters should work closely with those who run these youth programs.

Departments should consider other youth programs, one-day events as low as the junior high level. Consider a station tour with an emphasis on employment. Throw in some free food and goodies. Contact local colleges and high schools and offer internship programs. By thinking creatively, you can come up with various programs to get youth interested in police work.

The cadet program

Many agencies use a cadet program. I think these are good, but with issues. While, so far, they get away with age restrictions (such as 18-23), I don’t see their purpose. I also strongly suggest that waivers for military service be granted. Otherwise, you may be in violation of the federal Uniformed Service Employment and Re-Employment Rights Act. At least consider a five year credit (plus any involuntary extension time) for military personnel.

As stated above, I think the cadet program can be helpful to supplement sworn personnel, but why not just use the CSO program? That can be a fertile recruiting ground for those that prove their worth without regard to age. Also, the cadet program may force a department to hire or fire a person just because they reach an age or time limit. I welcome contrary opinions and comments on the success of your cadet program.

The non-profit

One of the best ideas I have heard is that of partnering with a non-profit agency. Through either partnering with existing non-profits or starting a law enforcement related non-profit, agencies can mentor and help youths wanting to be cops. Through outside funding, candidates can mentor youths, provide study material, arrange group activities and even fund academy tuition for some persons. Imagine the advantage of having more POST academy-certified applicants to choose from!

On some of these non-profits, local law enforcement administrators can serve as board members to provide guidance. Funding may come from the cities & counties, CBDG funding, foundations and private donors.

Alicia Jaramillo, an investigator with the Napa County District Attorney’s Office provides mentoring to Hispanic youth through a local non-profit, the Napa County Hispanic Network. They applied for and received $18,000 to be used specifically to help Spanish speaking bilingual candidates go to the police academy.

According to Investigator Jaramillo, “Basically, the idea was to provide qualified bilingual/bicultural candidates to the local agencies for hiring, and addressing the lack of translators and bilingual officers available in our community. The local law enforcement agencies have been great in collaborating with our organization in attempting to address these issues.” It is wonderful that cops would actually take time to volunteer and mentor youths and this funding is a great idea.

Until law enforcement agencies leave their past comfort zones and improve their process, they will continue to complain and wallow in defeat. Meanwhile, progressive agencies will reap the benefits. Recruiting is a long term process. We must instill an interest in youths and consider alternatives to sworn personnel. If your rules are broken, change the rules.

Good luck!

Web Links:

·                            Uniformed Service Employment and Re-Employment Rights Act

·                            Napa County Hispanic Network

Article written by/or information provided by tcamos

Jeff Church is a retired sergeant from the Reno Police Department and currently runs a law enforcement recruiting service. He is also a retired lieutenant colonel from the USAF Reserve. As a sergeant, Jeff has experience in interrogation, counter terrorism, special events, hiring & recruiting. He can be contacted at beacop@earthlink.net

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