Community Policing Nugget
How Community Policing Has Changed What Police Departments Are Looking for in New Recruits
As the face of the United States population changes, law enforcement agencies are trying to keep pace with the sweeping demographic shifts. The changes not only have an impact on the communities they protect, but also on the composition of their forces. Many agencies, through the evolution of community policing, are seeking a new type of candidate to keep pace with their broadening responsibilities and the expansion of community partnerships. Among the desired skills being sought are everything from dedication to public service to foreign language fluency to better communication skills with individuals having limited proficiency in English. Since interaction between the police and the public is a key element of building trust with the community, more and more departments are emphasizing character traits such as communication, compassion, dedication, achievement, integrity, courage, and commitment to service.
Filling the Vacancies
How do police agencies find new recruits to fill the vacancies of retiring officers, many of whom got their start as a result of the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration created in 1968? Several agencies are investing their resources and their future in the Internet and creative marketing that speak to a new generation ready to carry the torch. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD), with the help of an advertising firm, launched a recruitment web site (www.protectthecity.com) that emphasizes public service. Potential applicants can view videos from the academy and see a series of black and white nostalgic posters with slogans like “We call this city home. We’re going to make sure it stays that way” and “They say one person can’t make a difference. But somehow, one person always makes a difference to me.” The LVMPD and other departments that have turned to the web for recruitment have seen their applications skyrocket with the advent of online applications. To tap into this successful medium the RAND Corporation launched a COPS Office-funded Recruitment and Retention web site to serve as a one-stop shop for law enforcement practitioners to learn about the promising practices and experiences of other agencies (see www.rand.org/ise/centers/quality_policing/cops). For the potential recruit, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and the Bureau of Justice Assistance are joining forces to launch www.discoverpolicing.org in November 2008. Also in November, at the IACP Conference in San Diego, California, the COPS Office will moderate a session entitled “Replenishing the Troops: Recruiting and Hiring for Tomorrow.”
Internationally, agencies such as the British Transit Police have turned to social networking sites like Facebook to reach a new generation of police officers. Matching the skills of law enforcement with today’s millennial generation is the current challenge facing law enforcement agencies. Yet the public service ambition and technology oriented youth of today are a perfect fit to help implement and promote community policing partnerships. It’s a matter of marketing law enforcement as an exciting profession that offers adventure and a spirit of service and tailoring the selection process to reflect the community policing philosophy that has been widely adopted in jurisdictions throughout the country.
Some agencies, such as the Saint Paul (Minnesota) Police Department (SPPD), are focusing on selecting in, rather than screening out, candidates that complement their community policing practices. The SPPD has revamped its oral exams and psychological testing to better identify and select candidates that can put their problem-solving skills to use to protect and serve the public. Traits that have been identified through the selecting- in process include creativity, understanding, tenacity, and confidence. These character traits are often important ingredients when interacting with community members and other vital partners.
The Bottom Line
One thing hasn’t changed: law enforcement is still looking for a few good men and women who embody integrity, honor, and service. It’s just a matter of casting a wider net to attract new candidates to a profession they can be proud of.