Play the field

Recruiting quality employees has been the focus of law enforcement agencies for many years. Even as the economy changes, public service needs continue to necessitate officers on the streets. To meet growing needs, the California Commission on Peace...


Recruiting quality employees has been the focus of law enforcement agencies for many years. Even as the economy changes, public service needs continue to necessitate officers on the streets. To meet growing needs, the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (CA POST) compiled a Best Practices guide to assist agencies in recruitment and retention. “Leaders must place a priority on attracting and retaining the best employees,” CA POST explains. “Settling for those minimally qualified will grow a mediocre agency whose service will be, at best, mediocre.”

Agencies must focus on recruiting strategies that attract the best candidates. One technique some agencies use is hosting recreational athletic opportunities, such as baseball teams, running clubs and hockey teams, and using these as a way to attract candidates. New York Police Department has a vast array of athletic opportunities all under the NYPD logo. Offerings include baseball, football, hockey, men’s and women’s soccer, boxing, running, Gaelic football, rugby and lacrosse. Although many departments have sports teams made up of their members or members of a variety of local agencies, NYPD uses these opportunities as a recruiting strategy. Through its Web site, NYPD emphasizes recruits are part of a winning team both personally through athletics and professionally by joining the NYPD.

Recruitment needs

In 2009, the International Association of Chiefs of Police partnered with the Community Oriented Policing Service and developed the “Law Enforcement Recruitment Toolkit.” The Toolkit states individual agencies are responsible for creating their own recruiting campaign to market police work as an attractive and rewarding career choice to young people, candidates seeking a career change and those who might not have otherwise considered law enforcement as a career option. IACP President Russell B. Laine explains, “Recruiting and staffing shortfalls continue to plague law enforcement agencies across the United States. New challenges in the 21st century, including military call-ups, a greater number of retirements, homeland security obligations, and increased competition have combined to make the problem more acute.” Add to this the perception of instability in public safety employment — caused by hiring freezes, forced furlough and the uncertainty of public employee retirement system (PERS) benefits — and many agencies struggle with how to attract qualified candidates. Having enough quality police officers on the job is the priority of every department. All other priorities depend on this key foundation. The goal of police recruitment is to hire the right people. Recruits need to meet the quality standard, be team players and represent the diversity of the community.

Sports teams broaden the base of potential recruits. Although recruiters might go to job fairs or run ads in the local paper, none of these efforts will reach the amount or variety of prospective applicants that a charity ball game can. Those who attend the game will go home and talk about the event possibly creating a response such as “I didn’t know our police department had a ball team.” If all goes well, the next question might be, “How do I get on? Are they hiring?”

Another consideration in the Toolkit is agencies need recruiting strategies that reach out to the young. Generation Xers and Millennials have different values, and their outlook on employment better match each other’s than those held by Baby Boomers. These differences must be addressed if a recruitment strategy is to be successful. Generation Xers and Millennials are focused on self-reliance and cooperation. More women are going to college, so departments need to focus on how to attract them. Xers want balanced lives and time for family, leisure activities and other priorities. Athletics are a way for agencies to continue to build cooperation and teamwork among their officers and increase health and wellness, on off-duty time, which Xers and Millennials insist on.

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