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...

Surveys asking the main reasons people, especially Generation Xers and Millennials, choose a company to work for have found several common factors. These factors also apply to choosing between law enforcement agencies. Two important factors are agency reputation and friends.


A CA POST survey of academy recruits found 80 percent considered agency reputation a factor in accepting employment. Athletics allow a department to increase its positive reputation in the community and decrease the potential for a negative reputation to serve as a detractor that dissuades good candidates from pursuing employment with the agency. On a broader level, community athletic events (including charity events) can help dispel a lack of value or negative perception of law enforcement in general.

Friends and family

“Studies show young people aren’t choosing their work based on the pay,” explains Weinblatt. “They go to work because their friends are working there, they like the lifestyle and they get a sense of belonging. Athletics will do this for a law enforcement agency.” Current law enforcement officers are some of the best recruiters. A survey conducted by CA POST found “the overwhelming majority of top performers were recruited by current employees, they were actively involved in intramural sports, and they frequently attended professional sporting events.” When an officer plays on an agency team, he or she represents another desirable aspect of working for that agency. An officer might recruit someone to apply for the department by recruiting them to join the sports team.

Connecting with those who influence career choices is also an important recruitment strategy. During athletic events, the family of team members socializes with those who attend the event. This increases the opportunity for an officer’s spouse to share his or her experience and might persuade the other person to encourage his or her spouse to apply for a position with the agency. Those in police work and their loved ones belong to the law enforcement family. Positive interactions in the community increase the desire for others to join that family.

Using athletics as a recruiting tool

Agencies looking to support athletics need to know how to use them as a good recruiting tool. First, agencies need to know how to develop teams or clubs. “Most don’t cost a whole lot of money,” says Weinblatt. “Go to sporting goods stores. Most would be glad to help and either defray the cost or donate the equipment. The local schools are often very good and allow officers to utilize their facilities, such as the weight room or baseball field.” Once developed, photos can be posted on the Web. Agencies can tweet about the event and market using social media sites, such as Facebook.

Agencies can utilize sporting events to increase community engagement and improve relations, especially with elected officials and influential members of the community. The Toolkit explains, “The nature, scope, and intensity of police recruitment problems warrant total government commitment. Such commitment begins with the highest-ranking elected official and administrator.” Departments can invite elected officials and other members of the community to come out and throw the first ball, drop the puck, etc. Any chance to increase community partnerships is a good department strategy. Inviting an important figure in an ethnic community can improve relations within that population, as well as encourage attendants and potential recruits.

When an agency hosts an event, such as a charity game with police versus fire department, media coverage can be invaluable in presenting a positive story to the community and attracting candidates to police work. “You would see it in the newspaper,” explains Weinblatt. “It’s a great media event. The TV station will cover it. You get a lot of bang for the buck. The teams impacted and all these people watching the news are impacted.”

This impact might draw more candidates. A Toolkit survey found many young people do not consider law enforcement work because they lack information about it as a career. Sporting events can increase knowledge. “The community will turn out and start to see the department on a human level,” says Weinblatt. “They might start to consider a career, even a person who might not have considered law enforcement as an option.”

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