Brian Jackson

In the United States, law enforcement agencies are having difficulty attracting top quality candidates to apply to join the police force. The struggle agencies are facing becomes to attract qualified candidates even though the political climate may dissuade these applicants from applying. How does a police agency and the city in which it serves,  begin to change the conversation around policing to be positive and a desirable career choice?


As the baby-boomer generation in law enforcement begins retiring the question of who will fill their posts becomes top of mind for many agencies. The issue is not solely just the lack of candidates applying but rather the number of candidates who qualify. There is an increasing amount of competition recently from other agencies (military, federal, private security firms) dipping into a small pool of individuals who have the necessary qualifications. Therefore, law enforcement agencies need to begin adopting new methods of recruitment to improve on attracting millennials who potentially have the much-desired skill sets. Below we will explore a few tactics that every agency should consider to increase law enforcement applicants.


Tactic 1: Creative a proactive community outreach:

Police agencies should consider hosting or attending informative events within the community to encourage a variety of individuals from different backgrounds to choose careers in law enforcement. Be proactive with community outreach at high schools, colleges, or local job fairs. These are safe areas to inform large audiences of available career opportunities. Another way of being proactive is by partnering with religious and educational institutions to begin youth programs to create a pipeline of potential applicants. Youth programs also boost academic performances and provide a structure that cuts delinquency in a community.


Tactic 2: Streamline the hiring process:

According to the Associate Editor of PoliceOne, Cole Zercoe at the 124th IACP Conference, Michigan State Police suggests that a way they attract more candidates is by simplifying the application process. One way is by going paperless which allows applicants to upload all the necessary documentation online. Another way is taking the entrance exams, physical agility, and pre-screening interviews to applicants at partnering colleges in addition to testing sites.


Tactic 3: Increase social media presence:

Millennials are becoming the next generation of applicants to staff our police agencies. Appealing to this demographic will be key to gain applicants in large numbers. Millennials typically use the internet as their primary source of information for available jobs. Increased social media usage from agencies as a means to communicate with this generation will be paramount. Utilizing online social platforms as a recruitment tool could help promote new career opportunities to a larger applicant pool.  Social messages can reach a large audience with diverse backgrounds as potential applicants. Using social media to showcase achievements made by officers as well as other positive aspects and activities that an agency does is a great way to begin to change the conversation and negative stereotypes around becoming a police officer.


Tactic 4: Increase transparency:

Give potential applicants a clear and concise idea of what the length, complexity, and cost of the application process. A realistic job preview could be a benefit for an agency and applicants. Applicants will be able to prepare better for what to expect and feel secure in their decision to join the agency if they clearly understand the necessary steps. From submitting an application to acceptance to the academy taking anywhere from six months to one year, the better informed the candidate is through each step of their application the more likely they are to continue the process.


Tactic 5: Continue the conversation:

Keeping in contact with potential applicants either through email reminders, social media, direct mail, or phone calls can benefit the hiring process immensely. Offer information about career opportunities and how to apply. Offering preparation materials to help applicants plan for their entrance examinations is a major incentive. It is important to keep an ongoing dialogue with applicants as they are most likely to gravitate towards the agency that shows the most interest in them.


Applying these recruitment tactics to your police agency will increase your odds of more qualified applicants joining your police force. Improved recruitment tactics will hopefully result in a full staff force and improved community relations.