Gone are the days when 1,000 people apply for six positions at a police department. Gone are the days that you had to wait five or ten years to make your dream of becoming a police officer come true. In today's environment, with the baby boomers going into retirement and people often retiring at an earlier age, there are plenty of vacancies for those inspired to be a police officer. A quick Google search turned up hundreds of police departments eager to get their hands on the best of the best in our communities. Seattle, Nashville, Mesa, Atlanta; you name it, they are hiring. I remember in the 1990s our police service hired maybe one or two people in a four-year period. Having been hired in 1987, I spent many years as the rookie without anyone else to get to do the rookie work, like guarding a murder scene or working the information desk. There were even years where there was talk of layoffs, so I wasn't even sure I would keep the job I had. But today is a different story; even more so for the female applicant. There are many departments looking for qualified applicants in the underrepresented groups such as women and Aboriginals, African Americans and other demographics. Many departments are looking towards having their police reflecting the community they serve. Not an easy task in the 2006-2007 era.
Today, hiring qualified people is getting so difficult police departments are encouraging lateral transfers from one police department to another, recruiting officers travel to other cities and throw out the line hoping for the "big catch." In some cases they will hire you at your current rank and salary to get you onto their police departments. So even if you get onto a police department in a city that you do not like, it would be easy to change to another. With this phenomenon arising we see many police officers being trained by one department only to leave months after graduation to another. Retention becomes an issue.
The Phoenix Police web site clearly describes their Out of State Peace Officer Lateral Transfer program.
"The Phoenix Police Department offers a lateral transfer program for qualified out-of-state certified officers.
OUR MANY BENEFITS INCLUDE:
Over 80 specialty positions. Career Enhancement Pay up to $7,305 per year.
(Lateral Officers are eligible to apply on the first enrollment date after completion of the FTO program)
Education tuition reimbursement up to $4,311 per year. Longevity Performance Pay up to $4,000 per year. Bilingual Incentive pay - $10 per hour. Once probation has been completed as a Phoenix police officer, lateral and prior service, certified police officers may use 50% of other police agency time to meet the three year requirement for specialty assignments. Lateral Officers are eligible to work in an off duty capacity after completion of FTO training.
The Calgary Police Service in Canada also has special programs for experienced officers as well as international applicants. Their website reads
"If you are already a member of a Canadian Police Service, the Direct Entry Officer (DEO) Program will be of special interest to you and may expedite your application process.
If you are an International Applicant, I am pleased to inform you that you no longer need to have your Canadian citizenship or Permanent Resident Status to apply. The Calgary Police Service participates in the Provincial Nomination Program (PNP) which may assist you by reducing processing times for your immigrant status."
You don't even have to be a Canadian to be a Canadian police officer! And they are not alone--many police departments are going the same way. There are just not enough qualified people to fill the vacant positions.
With an increase in police officers changing departments after graduation, some departments have gone so far as to take legal action against the department that acquired them.* Some have set out ground rules for reimbursement. If officer had less that one year service at the time of separation, the entire amount for training will be reimbursed, two years will be half etc. Interesting concept and it is working! Departments are accepting the financial obligation that accompanies the experienced recruit.
There are of course some chances to take in regards to "poaching" other police departments' personnel. You must ensure you are not getting someone else's problem child. Their record may be clean, but their personality may indicate that it is just a matter of time before they cause problems. At times it can be a guessing game for human resource personnel. However, if you are the cream of the crop of your organization, this is your generation, my friend. You can virtually pick which police department you would like to work for and which city you would like to live in.
* as per discussion on the IALEP (International Association of Law Enforcement Planners) list serve September 2006.