The Wrong Way and the Right Way to Recruit

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results:


Okay, so you come from out of town and pass the written and agility for this un-named department; what's next? Well in a few weeks or months you will be called for an interview. Now the average qualified candidate is probably not waiting by the phone. They need to eat and they want to be a cop. By the time they get around to calling, these good candidates have often accepted employment elsewhere.

One candidate reportedly applied for this agency, was hired by another, and ten months later already finished their academy before receiving a call from this slow agency--which he declined. I spoke with a candidate who took the written in November and waited two months just to receive a letter with his placement score! The next step would be the oral, and once again about ten months start to finish. Do they really think that good candidates will sit around waiting for that possible call?

For those who take the oral interview and pass, they don't tell you how you did--just that you passed. You simply wait by the phone a few more months until a background investigator contacts you. Another trip to the city may be required to meet them and do background, medical, psychological tests, and other administrative tasks.

If you pass these and are selected, there may be a wait of many weeks or months until you actually show up at the academy and get your first paycheck two weeks later. What happens if another agency you applied with calls you first and offers immediate employment?

In the Pacific Northwest, a number of agencies have coordinated testing that is conducted at various sites in multiple states. One test is used by all these agencies. Some smart agencies will hire successful candidates right away before the academy, so as not to lose them. The other agencies that are "old school" get what's left. They will pay for that in academy and field training failures, liability, poor morale among motivated officers, etc.

Defenses I hear to the glacially slow process and impediments of systems like those mentioned and others are things like; "That's how we always did it, it has worked OK for years, we are afraid of liability- this is tested, it is done by Human Resources and out of our control, it is city or state law", etc.

One innovative way to support your recruiting effort is through grants and similar funding. The Las Vegas Metro Police Department has funded a recruiting & retention position through CPS-Human Resources Solutions and the IPMA: International Public Management Association for Human Resources.

According to Lt. Charles Hank of Las Vegas Metro, they recruit about 40% of the force from out-of-town applicants and found they were losing many for family reasons. Many of the spouses were not adapting to the new environment. Lt Hank said, "We hire the entire family." As he put it, the recruit "has ninety friends in the academy but the spouse and family have none." Those of us who have served in the military have seen it and the military has programs for the spouse, but most law enforcement agencies do not. LVMPD submitted a grant proposal to CPS for the "HIRE" program: Household Inclusion Recruitment and Employment. They received a $25,000 grant. Part of that money went to hire a "Recruiter Assistant" who happened to be a police spouse and a former police officer herself, so she understood both sides of the issue. By including the family in activities including a message board, housing advice, bringing the spouses and families together, etc. they believe they will see a major decrease in turnover of new officers. Now that's a well thought out and innovative approach, with or without the grant!

Finally, California has often led the field in law enforcement innovations. Their state standards commission (POST) has an individual assigned to recruiting research and dissemination. They have sponsored seminars and publications. California has further been very innovative with Assembly Bill (AB) 325. While still under consideration, it would create a mechanism for the state to take a leadership role in actively recruiting candidates to consider California law enforcement in general, not directing them to a state agency, but just selling the concept of being a peace officer in the state. This would help both large and small agencies who can't afford the high costs of job fairs, travel, expensive media ads, etc.

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