Webinar presenters Jim Stewart, Nikki Carson and Shelagh Dorn answered a number of your questions after their presentation, Recruiting and Retention of Police: Strategies for Small and Medium-Sized Agencies. Here are just a few of their responses.
Audience Question: How has COVID impacted your hiring process or applicant pool?
Nikki Carson: Well, fortunately for us we were already in a good spot with regards to staffing and did not have many openings. We had started a couple of backgrounds and so it really didn’t affect us. We had to make some modifications with our staffing schedule and modifications with hours at work, which may have set us back a day or two because of the new schedule that we were working. But from our standpoint, we were already in a pretty good spot going into the COVID-19 situation.
Shelagh Dorn: We currently have four certified officers who are waiting to join our department, and we’ll keep them on file until the next spot opens up.
Audience Question: How do you recruit minority applicants? Do you intentionally recruit them or what is your strategy for attracting diversity to your ranks?
Nikki Carson: I would say our strategy is to involve our current staff. Like I said before, we are a very diverse agency and we utilize individuals that we already have on staff in our recruiting videos and the career fairs and the job fairs. So we’re in a really good place with that and it allows us to attract more diverse individuals.
James Stewart: I’ll just echo that. The word of mouth of satisfied officers is the best tool we have. We actually have the Bloodmobile here today from Greenville, which is our adjacent county. I gave blood today while it’s outside and we have a nurse on board the Bloodmobile. She was interested in starting with us so I gave her my card. She’s interested in coming through the Detention Center first and hopefully, I’ll hear back from her. But I think that’s our best tool.
Shelagh Dorn: I agree with the face-to-face contact and also mention the mentoring that goes on between our current officers, especially minority officers and minority candidates. Like I said earlier, people in my undergraduate policing classes have said that if they don’t see women – if they don’t see minorities – in positions of influence, they’re not going to apply to those departments. So getting our representatives out there to talk one-on-one and talk honestly about the challenges that face women in policing and minorities in policing makes a substantial difference in the applicant pool.
Audience Question: Do you have a high school career and technical center resource nearby? How do you use your educational organizations like high schools, technical centers, community colleges, or even the college as recruitment sources? And if you do deliberately reach out to those organizations, what kind of success and processes have you used, and are you seeing in terms of success?
James Stewart: With this question, I need to point out that we’re not going to hire someone for employment for the police side or detention side until they’re 21 [SC has a minimum age], but they can work in the Dispatch Center. We have a unified Dispatch Center for Police, Sheriff, Fire, and EMS. Students do have that option. We’re having a new career center built right now where they’re trying to put courses into the curriculum, so in high school, your senior year, you could become 9-1-1 certified and NCIC certified. They could basically leave high school and go to work in our county’s unified Command Center. That experience gives you an even better opportunity which can be used to transfer to the road or some other career in law enforcement once they’ve met the minimum age requirement.
Nikki Carson: Just to add to that, we’re in a very unique location. We have a very good working relationship with our school district that does have a career campus. We’re also about 20 minutes from Clemson University, Anderson University is in our jurisdiction as well, so we have opportunities. We also have Tri-County Technical College, which is about 15 minutes away. So we’re centrally located between all of those institutions and we do go out and recruit. We are often asked to come and sit in on classes, provide information seminars about our agency, and more generally about law enforcement and what we’re looking for in an officer. We also attend career fairs or job fairs at those locations. So we’re in a good spot for recruiting locally.
Shelagh Dorn: I teach a policing class at Clemson University, and we have a use of force module where I bring them around for the opportunity to do shooting scenarios through Simunitions here in the City. I also provide extra credit opportunities for students to do a minimum of four hours of ride-along with their local police department, and they get credit for that. So working with the different programs is great. We have a very active ride-along program and it’s wonderful, not just for the community, but people who want to potentially engage in law enforcement as a career. One thing I wanted to mention too is our internship program. We’ve had three or four different interns recently from Clemson, and previously we’ve had some interns who rotated throughout the department. That gives students a perspective of what really goes on in an agency, so that they’re not part of that group who falls out during the training process or while they’re in their field training program.
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