How can small agencies compete with an agency that has a recruiting staff of 12 and a $500,000 annual budget? There is hope.
Recruiting is at a crossroads. There are not enough qualified bodies to fill existing openings. Las Vegas Metro has a staff of about eight recruiters and has hired a professional marketing company to help. The Los Angeles Police have 27 persons assigned to recruiting and a recruiting budget more than many entire police departments'. The U.S. Border Patrol seeks over 2,000 new agents per year and has millions of dollars to spend on getting the word out. The military is seeking even more people. In spite of big budgets, larger agencies are still not meeting goals. How can smaller agencies compete? Well there is some hope.
The major trend that I forecast is the growing involvement of state training and certification agencies, commonly called POST, in assisting local agencies. Most states have a POST (Peace Officers Standards and Training) and others go by different names such as division of law enforcement standards.
In California, POST has a specific individual assigned to recruiting issues and has hosted conferences on Recruiting and Retention. They have also published a research publication called "Recruiting and Retention, Best Practices (Update April 2006)." Take a look--it's very good reading.
However, what I'm predicting is way beyond that. I'm suggesting that your state POST or similar office actually run a website and active recruiting program to lure candidates to agencies within the state. Not just to recruit for their highway patrol or state positions, but that there be a major website that sells the benefits of being a law enforcement officer in that state, including sheriffs, police, bailiffs, school police, etc. Picture a website that sells the state as a place to be a cop. Included are schools, recreation and quality of life issues. Then there would be badges or patches to click on that would take you to each agency's recruiting site.
The cost of a recruiting booth or ad is the same regardless of agency size. They don't care what your budget is. So, once again picture a POST sponsored ad online or in magazines touting the advantages of being a cop in that state. The state should have a road crew of recruiters to go to job fairs, schools, and military bases. Once again the purpose is to direct people to all the agencies within the state.
How would this be accomplished? There is only one way that will be effective-- by lobbying by sheriffs and chiefs putting pressure on the governors, state POST director and legislature. Also check into possible federal or state grants to fund this!
If your state won't step up to the plate, small agencies should form a coalition. Do exactly what I proposed. Sell your state, or in a big state, sell your area. Small agencies must coordinate with others to have one website, one booth, one ad, one recruiter. Then do what one area has done; set up your own job fair. Don't wait for some for-profit to do it and overcharge you.
More and more agencies have set up coordinated and shared testing. We need to go beyond that.
If you read my previous article on "The 10 Golden Rules of Effective Law Enforcement Recruiting" you saw rule #9. Your chief, sheriff, director and perhaps your mayor, manager or commissioner must get involved to make this happen.
Moving along to other trends, I also see more non-profits getting involved in mentoring candidates and even funding them through the academy. Such a program is already in place in Napa, California and believe it or not, some cops actually volunteer their time for free to work with kids. Non-profits have much more flexibility in working with minorities and disadvantaged kids without the bureaucracy of a government agency. Law enforcement professionals may serve as board members on these non-profits. If your area non-profits won't do it, start one!