It's no secret that staffing - particularly recruiting new officers - is a challenge facing nearly every law enforcement agency in the U.S. Increasing attrition rates, budget cuts, public sentiment toward the police, and fewer people entering the profession are all contributing factors to this growing issue that agencies are facing.
This is a concern at all levels, not just police chiefs. It is frequently a topic of discussion at police association conferences, and it was even addressed at the recent U.S. Mayor's Conference, which several Truleo staff attended. The question, then, is how do we incentivize entering the law enforcement profession?
Hiring incentives are not new. I've seen signing bonuses in the tens of thousands of dollars for lateral officers to switch agencies, which makes sense. Agencies get a fully trained, sworn officer or deputy, thus cutting training costs and significantly reducing the time from hiring to deployment on the street. While this may alleviate the staffing woes of the individual agency, it doesn't help the broader issue of fewer people entering the profession. It's robbing Peter to pay Paul.
Recently, I saw this article out of Massachusetts where state Rep. Lenny Mirra has introduced a bill to provide free tuition for students seeking a degree in criminal justice, along with another bill that would allow the state to assist law enforcement officers working in Massachusetts with student loan payments. I think this is a smart, creative way to make the law enforcement profession more attractive and to foster a college-educated workforce.
Another challenge to recruitment is highlighting the positives of the profession so that people are excited to become officers. Unfortunately, so much of what is seen outside law enforcement is negative. One way Truleo is trying to help is by giving agencies visibility into the positive interactions that officers have on a daily basis - the ones that don't make it to the evening news. This allows chiefs to tell the story of how their officers are engaging with the community in a positive way, with the data to back it up, so that the public's perception of police officers can change for the better.
What do you think? Is offering free college something that will help with recruiting? What creative incentive programs have you seen for either recruiting or retention? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.