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

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

September 2019 | Volume 12 | Issue 8

What attracted previous generations to law enforcement careers doesn’t always appeal to Millennials or Generation Z, who have not only different job expectations but also a variety of other work options in a growing job market. However, there are some new methods as well as tried-and-true practices that have paid off for agencies in the past.

The following are ideas for attracting diverse, qualified, community-oriented people to the law enforcement profession. Though these practices can help get them in the door, determining your agency’s unique needs and evaluating the quality of applicants is up to you.

1. Ask Staff, Friends, and Family to Spread the Word

Many officers were inspired to join the force by friends and family. Others were encouraged by school resource officers (SRO), Police Athletic Leagues, and other outreach activities. Get everybody in the community and the force—including dispatchers and other nonsworn staff members—on board with recruiting. Some agencies use incentive programs, usually in the form of additional leave or comp time, to encourage these efforts.

2. Collaborate With the Community and Other Agencies

Develop working relationships with community leaders, school teachers and administrators, minority organizations, local government officials, and other groups to help identify good candidates.

Two or more regional agencies may be able to collaborate to hold joint recruitment fairs, develop messaging, or partner in other efforts. By sharing the costs, they could create high quality videos, flyers, web content, or other marketing tools that could be adapted to each agency with minor changes.

3. Go Online

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and an engaging website are essential recruiting tools, but there are other sites and applications that can serve you well too. Among them are PoliceApp, a program that not only simplifies the processes for applicants and police departments but also posts positions on social media and job boards. Others are Discover Policing, an IACP-sponsored site that introduces viewers to the profession,‘s career site, and the PublicSafetyApp.

4. Streamline the Process

Making the application process faster and easier is the most effective way of ensuring that applicants fill out and submit the forms. Streamlining and automating the entire application and acceptance process can pay big dividends. Planning recruitment days for weekends, when applicants can do everything on site at the same time, makes applying easier too.

5. Provide Helplines and Mentors

A welcoming and supportive approach will encourage applicants to work through the process. Consider setting up a helpline or a mentor program that makes staff available to answer questions and guide candidates through the application process. Online live chats can be helpful too. Ride-alongs, open houses, and other opportunities for applicants to interact with command staff and rank-and-file officers can build positive relationships that encourage them to apply.

6. Break Down Unnecessary Barriers

Examine barriers to recruitment such as residency and education requirements, background checks, physical standards, or training and academy requirements that might exclude potential recruits. Remove unnecessary or outdated ones, or consider ways to help otherwise solid candidates overcome them.

7. Consider Different Degrees

Though criminal justice programs at local colleges are a sure way to find recruits, don’t overlook other majors such as law, political science, psychology, or sociology. And in addition to making presentations at job fairs, work with local schools’ career placement offices. Collaborate to create summer internship programs for credit too.

8. Grow Your Own Candidates

Police Athletic League camps, internships, police explorers, and similar programs are a good way to find young people interested in law enforcement careers and prequalify them too. SROs may be able to identify high school students who are likely candidates. And it may be possible to hire young men or women in nonsworn support positions where they can learn, earn tuition money, and join the force when they reach the required age.

9. Don’t Overlook Anybody

Also consider reaching out to older people, military veterans, and lateral transfers from other departments. Look at transitional workers too, especially those who have left careers in fields such as teaching, aviation, or medicine but still want to serve. If a local employer is laying off workers, you may also find good candidates among their employees.

10. Create an Engaging Video

You can probably find someone in your department or community with a cell phone or professional video camera and editing software, or engage a local production company. For inspiration, see the Rialto (California) Police Department’s video and Fort Worth (Texas) Police Department’s Chewbacca Ride Along.

Faye Elkins
Sr. Technical Writer

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