Finding and keeping great people has been a concern for all kinds of organizations for decades. However, for a once seemingly stable profession that once could easily attract enough candidates to fill the ranks, recruiting has become a challenge for many law enforcement agencies for a multitude of reasons. From the daunting hiring process itself to generational differences, salary and compensation differences, changing expectations and social climate, hiring managers are finding it difficult to recruit candidates to join their sworn-officer ranks.
- The common methods used to select law enforcement personnel,
- Which of these common methods actually predict performance,
- The relationships among academy performance, field training performance, and on-the-job performance, and
- The legal issues associated with using various selection techniques.
Justice Clearinghouse Editors (JCH): There’s an old saying that “You always know why you’re firing someone, but you don’t always know why you’re hiring them.” Even with all of the personality tests, and multi-step interview processes, first, second and even third interviews…. it still seems like hiring is a challenge to get the right person for the job. Why is that?
Dr. Michael Aamodt: The difficulty in hiring law enforcement personnel is that most applicants have never performed a similar job, so using past performance or experience as a predictor is difficult. That is, a person applying for a clerical position has most likely had prior clerical experience that you can explore to determine if they are a good performer. The same is not true for law enforcement applicants. Instead, the academy and field training are the first real opportunities to observe an applicant (cadet) performing job-related duties. Due to the expense of sending an applicant through the academy and field training, most departments are reluctant to fire officers who don’t perform well during training.
Police officers with military experience
do not perform better in the academy or on the job
than do officers without prior military experience.
JCH: It seems like hiring — and especially keeping — great people is going to become more and more difficult for Law Enforcement Agencies? How is hiring and retention of staff interconnected?
Mike: Most law enforcement agencies are having a difficult time these days not only attracting qualified applicants but also retaining those that they do hire. Based on discussions I have had at several conferences, law enforcement agencies are struggling to find applicants who can pass the background check, especially the polygraph. As a result, some agencies are revising their policies regarding prior drug use. To attract more applicants, several agencies have removed their requirements that applicants have college degrees.
Retention is especially difficult for agencies in small towns that can’t afford to pay their officers what larger cities or federal agencies can afford to pay. Certainly, the current anti-police and anti-ICE climate doesn’t help either recruitment or retention.
Most law enforcement agencies are having a difficult time these days
not only attracting qualified applicants
but also retaining those that they do hire.
JCH: You’ve done a tremendous amount of research with regard to indicators for future performance of law enforcement. Without giving the webinar away, what’s one indicator the audience might be surprised by?
Mike: I think the biggest surprise in our data is that police officers with military experience do not perform better in the academy or on the job than do officers without prior military experience. Although I should point out that most of these studies are rather old and the results might be different if we had more current studies on this topic (hint to researchers looking for a new research idea).
JCH: Many of our audience like to continue learning about these topics. What are some of the best books or thought leaders members should check out if they want to continue learning about how to find and hire great people for their organizations?
Mike: Of course, I am going to recommend my book, Research in Law Enforcement Selection, for those looking for a research-based perspective on what best predicts law enforcement performance.
An excellent textbook on hiring in general is, Staffing Organizations, by Robert Ployhart, Benjamin Schneider, and Neal Schmitt.
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