As with much in the world, change is inevitable - even when it comes to police recruitment. The workforce is aging - 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every day and heading for retirement ushering a new labor-force known as the millennial generation. Surveys show that millennials have become the largest generation in the US labor force.  However, this younger 22-37-year-old generation has different expectations of the workplace that requires a closer look at the current law enforcement recruitment process.

Overall, the perception of law enforcement as a career has changed: Attitudes toward policing are conflicted, and the effect on recruitment has been heavily impacted. According to a recent IACP survey, large departments with 300+ officers experienced an average shortage of 73+, sworn personnel. For agencies averaging 300 officers this shortage represents nearly a deficit of a third lower than their authorized numbers.

Considering the millennial generation's values greatly differ from their predecessors, what is the best approach to entice them into a career of law enforcement? Can law enforcement keep their traditional recruitment process intact or will it need to undergo a drastic change to adapt for survival as a profession? The hard truth is yes.

The best place to start is the recruitment process. The recruiting process, will need a critical overhaul to appeal to the millennial generation, who are motivated by similar law enforcement ideals such as community, diversity, inclusion and justice for all.

Three changes to increase recruitment

  1. Attract them to your mission Emphasize community-oriented policing and the public service component of the job. Use new media to reach out to this younger generation where they are, and use a fresh tone to approach them more engagingly.

  2. Reduce the time to hire A lengthy and cumbersome recruitment process discourages applicants from choosing law enforcement as a career. Find ways to streamline using technology and outsource certain selection processes such as written test, polygraph, background investigation, etc. The recommended processing time from application submission to academy enrollment should be less than six months.

  3. Keep them engaged: Lack of communication during a lengthy recruitment process is cited as one of the main reasons why many recruits drop out or lose interest in the midst of being qualified. Maintaining rapport with applicants helps to demonstrate your department’s interest in the individual and highlights your agency as a welcoming workplace.

Three changes to increase retention

  1. Provide Flexibility Gone are the days when you could afford to saddle the last officers in with the worst schedules. If you saddle younger employees now with all the nights and weekends, they simply won't stay around. Millennials will not work long hours and being away from their families as previous generations tolerated. Revamp your scheduling procedures to ensure you're offering a balance, and make sure that you communicate to candidates that this is on offer.

  2. Provide Growth Law Enforcement provides a wealth of opportunities beyond beat patrol as many from outside law enforcement would believe. Special Units such as bomb arson, marine, forensics, cyber crime etc; are unique once in a lifetime opportunities that can only be obtained by choosing a career in law enforcement. Highlight these career and growth opportunities during recruitment and enrollment.

  3. Impact This is generation want to know their job makes a difference that positively impacts their community. continue to drive this mission home with clear campaign antecodes on your website on how your agency is addressing plaguing problems such as crime, opiod crisis, and community trust. Open and honest communication about the issues displayed on your website helps with perception and impact.

With so many challenges in policing - including a nationwide shortage of officers - the onus is on the police departments to take assistance where possible without compromising standards. The use of police technology is one instance where help is available and needs only to be put into practice in order to improve the recruiting and hiring processes. In this manner, police forces dramatically decrease administration, enabling a return to this important business: "To Protect and to Serve."