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U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Community Oriented Policing Services

145 N Street, N.E.
Washington, DC 20530

April 2023 | Volume 16 | Issue 4

As American law enforcement agencies grapple with issues surrounding recruitment and retention, an increasing number see mentoring as part of the solution.

In addition to strengthening retention efforts, mentoring can help recruits successfully manage academy training. It also allows agencies to cast a wider net when recruiting, to attract candidates who may need extra support and encouragement—especially women, who often lack law enforcement role models. Mentoring can also improve performance and job satisfaction.

But many agencies aren’t sure of how to start on developing a program. To address this need, the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) and the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) hosted a workshop at the IACP Officer Safety and Wellness (OSW) Symposium held in Anaheim, California in March 2023.

Titled Mentoring Programs: The Value of Internal Support and How To Start Your Own, it was led by three experts in the field who focused on how to establish a successful mentoring program for differing agency needs.

Kym Craven, Executive Director, National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives (NAWLEE)

An Overview of Mentoring

Kym Craven spoke about the benefits of mentoring, citing research which indicates that 67 percent of corporations who have instituted it say it has helped them become more efficient. Their workforces benefited too: mentees in the study were promoted five times more than those not in a program, and mentors promoted six times more.

She also noted that retention rates for corporate mentorship programs were also very high—72 percent for mentees and 69 percent for mentors—and that similar results can be found in the law enforcement profession.

In describing NAWLEE’s mentoring models, she said that they are beneficial to both mentors and mentees. They are also designed to help a mentee throughout their career, unlike academy training or peer support programs which are designed for crisis situations.

She explained the difference between formal mentoring, which requires a program leader, guidelines, agreements, and a reporting process, and informal mentoring, in which an individual simply observes someone who inspires them and is willing to help.

Different Styles of Mentoring

There are also different types of mentoring. Internal programs are led by an agency and have designated staff and an internal tracking tool. External programs are managed by an outside entity. In hybrid models, organizations internalize most of the program’s operations but rely on an external source for needs not achievable through the agency alone.

NAWLEE offers an external mentoring program for women who want to be matched with somebody outside their organization, to learn a skill not represented in their agency or because they feel more comfortable with someone who is not a member of their workforce.

Craven also described pre-academy or recruitment mentoring in which a mentor is assigned to a person who is interested in joining the agency, helping with their application and interview processes. She added that there are academy-based programs, too, which engage one-on-one or group mentors to focus on technical skills but also help mentees adapt to the academy culture.

She noted that though many say the post-academy Field Training Officer process is a mentoring program, and it does have the ability to take somebody from academy to full law enforcement duty, it is not designed for a mentee who wants to grow and move up from that point.

In summing up, Craven advised organizations to adopt the model that aligns with their goals and resources, being sure to get input from all levels of management and areas of the department.

Chief Carrie Ellis of the Willow Park (Texas) Police Department

Texas Police Chiefs Association

Creating a Statewide Women’s Mentorship Program

Chief Ellis is a member of the Texas Police Chiefs Association’s (TPCA) Women’s Law Enforcement Executive Committee, which was created in 2019 to support women in law enforcement by promoting acceptance, inspiring inclusion, and encouraging the professional development of female law enforcement leaders through education, mentorship and empowerment.

She spoke about the efforts of the committee, whose members represent agencies of varying sizes from all over Texas, to create their mentorship program.

Since Texas is such a large state, implementing a statewide program required centralizing the application process, so they developed a standardized application form, along with a mentoring agreement requiring that participants meet regularly and follow the stated guidelines. They also made it a requirement that the head of the agency or another senior person approve the mentor’s or protégé’s participation in the program.

A Three-Tiered Program

The mentorship program TCPA developed is three-tiered, designed to fit women at different stages of their careers.

Tier One, Development, is designed for officers with one to three years of experience who are seeking a special assignment or a first promotion; Tier Two, Command, is mid-level, but varies agency to agency, and could be a sergeant or lieutenant seeking to advance to a command position; Tier Three, Executive, is for lieutenants and commanders aspiring to become chief executives.

“But then we asked ourselves, how to match these folks,” she said. “So, we decided to use information on the application and ADW assessment tools, which measure how people interact with others, leadership style, and how they would defuse a situation and other characteristics.”

Each mentee gets a workbook specific to their tier, as well as suggested reading materials, and parings are monitored by members of the committee. TCPA is also developing an evaluation tool to see if any areas of the program need to be improved.

Program Opportunities and Challenges

“We have gotten great feedback by phone and email,” said Ellis, “but a remaining challenge is matching women who want to be paired with another female. One mentee wanted to quit because she was matched with a male mentor, but there are too few women in leadership positions to pair with.” According to Ellis, the young woman stuck it out and hopes to get paired with a female mentor in the next tier.

“Funding can also be challenging,” she says, “We operate with mostly volunteers and donations.”

Officer Nicole Juday of the Indianapolis (Indiana) Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD)
The Role of Self Knowledge in Successful Mentoring

Officer Juday supports IMPD’s Mentoring program, which is run by the department’s Office of Professional Development and Wellness (OPDW) unit.

The program was developed to help officers build resiliency early in their careers and is therefore mostly focused on new recruits. On the first day of the academy, recruits are given a match sheet which asks them about their military experience, hobbies, etc., as well as for one word that describes what they would like in a mentor.

“Some say things like funny, or blunt” said Juday, “but whatever they say will be the compatibility word. We also match people based on career aspirations, asking for a short paragraph about their strengths and weaknesses.”

Mentoring Support from the Academy throughout Their Careers

The IMPD program also connects successful veteran officers with motivated peers who desire direction or support later in their careers. The 170 volunteer mentors provide guidance and encouragement for officers to continue their personal and professional development throughout their careers in law enforcement.

Mentors must submit a resume and an essay about their personal experience with mentoring explaining why they want to do it. Those who are selected come from all ranks, positions, and units of the department, and receive five days of formal training, which Juday says encourages them to be themselves.

“You need to have a strong self of self to be a mentor,” she said. “So, we talk a lot about who we are as individuals and what we’ve experienced in life.”

The first day, mentors draw up personal mission statements and participate in scenario-based training. The second day, they engage in activities such as a high ropes course and zip lining. The third day, they talk about what mentoring means.

On day four, the academy staff joins them to discuss how they expect our mentors to engage with their recruits. And on day five, mentors and mentees have lunch together.

“We’ve found that mentoring is a good way of getting veteran officers to reinvest in their careers. After five days, they have a more positive attitude.”

Expectations and Lessons Learned

“We expect that the mentor and mentee check in with one another once a week, and require the recruitment mentors to be accountable for the relationship through the end of Field Training, which lasts one year,” said Juday.

“They must also be prepared to talk about personal things, because this generation speaks more freely about what they have experienced. So, mentors should admit to having had some difficult times and come through them, but not overshare.

“Also, mentoring never trumps training. Mentors get a recruitment guideline workbook, so they know that if the academy tells the recruit to do something, they must never disagree. Mentors must always support the academy.”

Juday recommends that agencies considering a mentoring program start small and choose people they personally trust, then train them in communication and relationship building.

“Find resources in your community to use when problems arise, then build relationships with those who can help you. Build connections with the academy training staff too. They may be unsure about recruit-based mentoring, so need to know that we are there to support them, not to take over what they are doing.”

CRI-TAC: A Free Source for Mentoring Program Development and Training

A question on many minds is where to find support for the establishment of a mentoring program. Emily Jennings, an IACP Senior Project Manager who works on the Collaborative Reform Initiative Technical Assistance Center (CRI-TAC), said CRI-TAC can provide training and technical assistance for implementing a mentoring program through its Officer Safety and Wellness (OSW) area.

She described the wide range of technical assistance solutions CRI-TAC offers to state, local, tribal, campus, and territorial law enforcement. Designed by the field for the field and customized to the unique needs of each agency, these solutions are free of charge and easily accessed without the need for a grant application.

Nazmia Comrie, a Senior Program Specialist at the COPS Office, spoke about CRI-TAC, which is a COPS Office program. She also described the wide range of other assistance programs offered by the COPS Office, which supports agencies through funding, resources, training and technical assistance in many areas, and emphasized the easy access to courses in subjects such as community policing and leadership training through the online COPS Training Portal.

In summing up, Comrie said, “There’s a real need for mentoring in the law enforcement profession, at state and national levels as well as in individual agencies. It enhances recruitment, training, and retention, and CRI-TAC offers a very flexible program for law enforcement entities of all types and sizes.”

To request assistance or find more information, go to the Collaborative Reform website.

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