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Making Recruitment and Retention a Priority

Recruiting sufficient numbers of qualified employees to meet the department’s needs is the most fundamental human resource process in a police department. As such, the success of the organization’s recruitment program impacts the effectiveness of every other departmental function. If an agency is unable to attract the quality of personnel needed, it will likely experience difficulty reducing crime, building relations with the community and maintaining a positive image.

Traditionally, a limited job market ensured departments did not have to recruit very much to attract good candidates. Today, law enforcement agencies are faced with incredible difficulty in trying to attract and retain quality candidates who “fit” within their organizational environment. To succeed in this effort, leaders are being forced to look at recruitment and retention in new and different ways.

Departments are evaluating compensation packages, equipment, career development opportunities, recruiters, recruitment techniques, selection procedures, interpersonal relationships, leadership development, employer brands, and mentoring. In short, when recruiting personnel, everything matters!

Before any of these programs can be initiated, leaders must first recognize that the department has a problem attracting candidates and make recruitment and retention of staff an organizational priority. While making this announcement may seem obvious, some leaders view admitting a problem is a sign of weakness or failure. In order to make recruiting an organizational priority, programs must be provided with executive support, open communications, and sufficient resources.

Without executive support, efforts to attract personnel will likely be met with limited success. Law enforcement executives demonstrate what is important by where they focus their attention. Chief executives should provide public presentations to governing bodies, civic groups, and community organizations of problems being experienced and the department’s plans to address the issue.

In addition, they must complete routine inspections to ensure goals are being met. Impediments to recruiting and retaining personnel, including bureaucratic stovepipes, turf battles, and unnecessary administrative procedures, must be identified and eliminated. At the same time, leaders must demonstrate a willingness to seek alternative approaches to recruit and retain staff. Maintaining good, open two-way communications is the second key to making recruiting an organizational priority. Failing to communicate with staff about recruiting processes and goals sends the message that it is not important. By listening to problems, leaders demonstrate they are interested in addressing issues and are more likely to encourage candid exchanges.

When addressing issues, the people closest to the problem usually have the best ideas for a solution. Involving representatives from each division to participate in the development of a strategic recruiting plan will provide critical information that may not otherwise be recognized. In addition, having input to address issues provides ownership of the solution and better ensures success.

To be effective, agencies must communicate constantly and employ a variety of mediums including one-on-one conversations, committees, surveys, newsletters, e-mails, and shift briefings. About the time leaders think they are communicating too much, they are probably getting it just about right. It should be noted that if the department has not maintained an environment of open communication in the past, officers might be hesitant to talk at first. Over time, however, they will open up with comments, criticisms, and suggestions for improvement.

The last key to making recruiting an organizational priority is to provide sufficient resources in the form of staff, supplies, time, and funding. Organizations must budget sufficient funds to cover the program’s activities. The greatest expenditures are officers’ salaries and benefits. Other costs include recruitment bonuses, travel expenses for recruiters, and booth rentals. Indirect costs may consist of expenditures for composing and producing Web sites, brochures, displays, and advertising.

When organizations make recruiting an organizational priority, being a recruiter is considered an important position and only the most qualified people are assigned to the position. Too often agencies place the “walking wounded” or people who have “retired on active duty” as recruiters. Departments must be careful to appoint their best officers as recruiters and once selected hold them responsible for meeting established standards.

While people may be designated as recruiters, every officer in the department is a potential recruiter. No agency would limit the responsibility of searching for a murder suspect to a couple of officers. Information is dispatched to the entire department and the public so everyone can help locate the offender. The same should be true for recruiting. Systems should be put into place to involve every officer in the department in the recruiting effort.

Recruiting can be a very time-consuming process. Because of this, staff must be provided plenty of time to network, train, prepare, travel, and participate in various recruitment functions. This is particularly true in smaller departments where people may be performing tasks part time.

The key to having an exemplary recruitment program is to make it an organizational priority. By providing recruitment programs executive support, open communications, and resources, agencies can ensure they are able to attract and retain the quality of individuals who “fit” within their department. People with questions or suggestions regarding their department’s recruitment and retention program should feel free to contact the author directly.

Dwayne Orrick is the chief of the Cordele, GA, Police. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy, and past-presenter at the IACP convention. He can be reached at

Published in Law and Order, Mar 2008

Rating : 8.7

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