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

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

July 2021 | Volume 14 | Issue 7

Law enforcement agencies (LEAs) face several recruitment challenges in attracting talented candidates who represent a diversity of backgrounds and experiences. LEAs typically pursue a variety of officer recruitment strategies, including youth programs and outreach.

Many youths develop an interest in a particular career at an early age—and in the current climate, young people and their families are often conflicted about the value of a law enforcement career. By providing a program that lets young people learn more about a law enforcement career, LEAs can help them make better decisions as to whether such a career is right for them. By becoming involved with youth programs, LEAs can promote the values of their agency and focus recruitment efforts at the local level, which helps recruit a diverse force that reflects the community.

  • Conduct a census of youth law enforcement experience programs.
  • Identify promising programs and practices.
  • Develop resources, including a searchable publicly available Census Database, a toolkit with detailed implementation guides, and a project website.
  • Disseminate resources to individuals and organizations that can use the information to implement youth law enforcement experience programs.
  • Support LEA implementation of youth program through a training and technical assistance team.

In 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office), seeing a need for more information about the promise of youth experience programs for officer recruitment, funded the development of a Census of Youth Law Experience Programs. There are thousands of these programs. They can be divided into two main groups. Non-school programs include internship programs, Explorer programs, and youth camps or academies, all of which are typically managed exclusively by one LEA as a pipeline for recruitment. The other group involves school career programs. They include stand-alone high schools, career academies, and career and technical education programs. These are all typically administered through a public school system with LEA involvement and focus on preparing students for public safety careers.

With funding from the COPS Office, RAND is partnering with the Law and Public Safety Education Network (LAPSEN) and a technical advisory group to conduct this 2-year project. The goal of the Census of Youth Law Enforcement Experience Programs is to increase the capacity of LEAs to implement innovative youth programs that introduce and promote careers in law enforcement.

Project Approach

The RAND/LAPSEN team is identifying youth law enforcement experience programs by drawing from lists of existing programs from organizations such as Learning for Life, Public Safety Cadets, North East Regional Law Enforcement Educational Association (NERLEEA), and LAPSEN. The team is also conducting systematic web searches using keywords for each program type to identify additional law enforcement experience programs.

To be included in the census database, the program must (a) have direct involvement with a law enforcement agency; (b) focus on career preparation and recruitment; and (c) target young people of high school age or older. Programs aimed at middle or junior high school ages will be included if part of a pipeline program. If you know of a program that meets these criteria, please contact us at

The dissemination plan, developed in collaboration with the COPS Office, will ensure that census deliverables are shared broadly with LEAs and youth law enforcement experience programs. The training and technical assistance team that LAPSEN will create to support LEA implementation nationally will continue after completion of the project. In addition to supporting the programs identified in the census, LAPSEN is currently piloting a National Law Enforcement Certification that can be used by both in-school and non-school law enforcement programs.

Project Team

RAND Corporation: Through independent research and analysis, the non-profit, non-partisan RAND Corporation develops solutions to public policy challenges to help make communities throughout the world safer and more secure, healthier, and more prosperous. Lois Davis and Dana Schultz are leading the development of the census of youth law enforcement experience programs.

Law and Public Safety Education Network (LAPSEN): a non-profit focused on supporting public safety career programs for youth and managed by state government education agencies. Joe Coffee is leading LAPSEN’s partnership with RAND to conduct the census.


Visit to learn more the project. For additional information, please send an email to or contact Lois Davis at

To nominate a potential promising program or practice, contact Joseph Coffee, LAPSEN, at or 571-488-8986.

To request being notified when project products and resources are available, email us at

Visit National LE Certification | LAPSEN to learn more about the National Law Enforcement Certification Program for Youth.

Joe Coffee (LAPSEN)
Dana Schultz (RAND)
Lois Davis (RAND)

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