Posted: August 1st, 2022

Impacts of Staffing and Recruiting on law enforcement

Staffing and Recruiting
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Impacts of Staffing and Recruiting on law enforcement
Abstract
For years, filling positions at the law enforcement level was not a challenge. However, previous years have shown a decline in the number of applicants and an increase in attrition of officers. These changes have been caused by several factors including lack of retention plans, failure to understand generational differences and lack of flexible schedules. Mitigation measures to solve the poor staffing and recruiting methods have been few since the issue has manifested itself over the past five years. This paper hopes to address the issues contributing to the decline in applicants and retention of officers. Possible solutions are recommended in the hope of solving the issues and increasing the law enforcement workforce.

Introduction
At the moment, the law enforcement sector is in staffing and recruiting problems due to stable economies and very low unemployment rates. Most people are opting to settle for other jobs rather than law enforcement. This has brought tension across law enforcement platforms as the number of applicants greatly reduce every year. More and more police agencies are struggling to replace retired officers and at the same time retain existing ones. Unlike in previous years where law enforcement seemed like an ideal career, times have changed, and the sudden change has shocked the police department. Police departments and Sherriff units are claiming that there are very few qualified applicants who are applying for vacant positions no matter the efforts of the department. The issue does not seem to be the salary as most police departments have well-paying offers. There seems to be a decline in the interest of pursuing law enforcement within the environment.
Retention seems to be another issue that is facing law enforcement, as it becomes more difficult each year. Police department across the country are suffering financially as they try to gain return on investment for the employees they have trained. The cost of recruiting, hiring and retaining employees is quite expensive as the law enforcement personally funds the initiatives. Most police departments have noticed that recruits may apply in numbers, but once they get the training, most of them quit their jobs, leaving the department scarred. Police departments aim to hire personnel on a long-term basis; hence, this new wave of attrition has come as a shock to the budget of the force. This paper aims at studying the causes of attrition of law enforcement staff alongside decrease recruitment applicants and give possible solutions that could solve the problem.

Problem statement
There is a need to look into the problems that face law enforcement in hiring and recruiting new members. These issues are caused by lack of retention plans, failure to understand generational differences and lack of flexible schedules. Some law enforcement agencies are trying to address the issues to ensure they eradicate the problem. This paper aims to solve the challenges faced by proposing possible solutions to the issues as mentioned earlier. Even though they may not constitute a larger part of the issues facing the hiring and recruiting process, they contribute to minimising the crisis and improving the number of officers hired, recruited and retained.
There is great importance in maintaining the police workforce as they play key roles in the community. One of the issues to consider is the responsibility of the law enforcement officer to enforce the law. They patrol around the community and ensure that law and order are maintained. This keeps everyone safe as officers can intervene in time of trouble and the act also minimises criminal levels. Law enforcement also ensures that property is protected to maintain continuity of a community. In general there are two important roles of the police officer – crime prevention, and community building. Maintaining these practices are the motivators behind finding a solution to the crisis faced by law enforcement. If the number of applicants continues to decline, then there is the possibility that communities will face the inevitable threat of increased criminal activities. Hence the purpose of this paper; to find a solution to the current negative impact in law enforcement recruiting and hiring.

Background
The current indicators are part of a long-term trend that started manifesting itself over past years and is set to continue unless remedies are enforced. At the end of the year 2018, the number of full-time employees as indicated by the U.S. Department of justice’s Bureau Statistics indicated a steady decline in fulltime employees. This trend was more prominent between the years 2013 to 2016 where fulltime officers declined from 725,000 to 701,000, recording a 3.2% decrease. Previous to 2013, there had been a constant increase in law enforcement officers since 1997. When these statistics are compared against the ever-increasing American population, the figures are even more shocking. The number of officer per 1000 residents moved from 2.42 officers to 2.17 officers which indicated a 10.3% decrease in staffing. This meant that police officers were expected to perform more tasks due to lesser officers to share tasks with. Most law enforcement departments, 41%, agreed that they had a shortage of personnel. The reasons for the decline were attributed to fewer applicants, resignations within 5years, decline in average length of service, state and local government officials saying policing jobs are the most difficult, and increased retirements. As per the PERF survey, there are about 69% resignations with the first five years which is quite alarming. When it comes to retirement, about 8% of fulltime sworn-in officers are eligible for retirement while a reminder 15.5% will qualify for retirement within the next five years. Within the past five years, the number of applicants has also decreased by 36% or 27% based on the responding department. These statistics prove that there is a serious case of staffing and recruiting that needs to be handled immediately

Methodology
The methodology for this research is mostly qualitative as the data to conclude based on works by other scholars. Kearns, 2007, in his study talks about the challenges faced by the Prince William County Police in terms of recruiting and retaining. His research involves analysis of the PWCPD current strategy to recruit officers as he comes up with solutions to retain officers. He claims that knowing the target market, strengths of the organisation, and creating a competitive pay increases the chances of retaining officers or luring in new applicants. Another scholar is Langham, 2017, who studies the hiring and testing process of law enforcement, then goes ahead to analyses internal and external factors that influence the decisions of applicants and full-time officers. Nolan, and Harper, 2007, also contribute to issue of staffing and recruiting by analysing a survey of educational requirements while applicants join the force. Through the gathered information, they study the relationship between educational pay incentives, salaries, recruitment, and retention. Wilson et al., 2010, claim that the current attrition in the law enforcement workforce can be blamed on budget crises, retirements, and expanding the scope of duties hence needing officers with a wider scope of duties. The Police Executives Research Forum, 2019, gives insight to some of the solutions adopted by law enforcement to remedy the crisis. Through the article, they address the challenges in finding qualified individuals for policing and possible solutions that are implementable. The above data will suffice the research for the problem statements – lack of retention plans, failure to understand generational differences and lack of flexible schedules – to impact the staffing and to recruit of Law Enforcement in a positive manner.

Issue of Non-flexible Schedules and Solution
The first issue that contributes to most people not applying for policing jobs is the lack of flexible schedules. Policing jobs demand 24/7 services since law enforcement officers are vital to the success of the organisation. Most people are afraid of the tight working schedules of police officers as they could e called to respond to emergencies at any time, fill in for absentees, or work overtime. Most applicants view the work of police officers as tedious since it contains a lot of procedures to get work done. This mentality has made individuals consider other types of works since they value their free time more than work. In some cases, law enforcement officers do not have holidays and may get few days to spend with their families during Thanksgiving, Christmas or any other holiday. This perspective has also been brought about by the growing roles of police handling social problems which expands the activities a law enforcement officer is expected to undertake (PERF, 2019). Currently, the ordinary police officer is expected to respond to issues in the community that were previously handled by social service agencies, e.g. responding to homelessness. Due to these new roles, the schedules of police officers are swamped with tons of activities and less free time to make their functionality a success.
Suggestions for solving the above issue is reforming the internal activities of police departments to create more satisfaction among officers. The achievement of this satisfaction is expected to retain officers while at the same time, draw in applicants who learn of the reforms. Strategies to improve officer schedules involve allowing reasonable off requests by officers especially for family activities and holidays. Law enforcement agents are similar to normal human beings, and it is important to realise their need to take frequent offs to connect with family or attend to childcare needs. Even if not all officers can get an off on holidays, it is best to compensate those who do not get that particular off with more appealing offers. It is also reasonable to get more than one single person to share a single off due to the increased roles. Instead of giving officers the burden of fulfilling all the tasks detailed in their job description, the work should be distributed among several individuals. This will reduce the dependency on one officer which may lead to cases of overworking. Streamlining the schedules for police officers is a suggestion that may solve the bad reputation associated with tedious police work hence retaining officers and increasing the number of applicants.

Issue of Generational Change and Solution
Another major problem that contributes to poor recruitment and staffing is the inability of the department to understand the generational differences. Traditionally, it was a vocation for individuals to serve in the law enforcement sector. Today, young adults serve in the force with hopes of advancing to a better job (Langham, 2017). For them, it is a short-term stepping stone. No one can blame them however, since law enforcement workers often consider themselves underpaid, exploited and unappreciated (Kearns, 2007). Times have changed, but the guidelines of the police department seem to be rigid. The current generations that are meant to apply for law enforcement jobs are the millennials and the generation X. these two generations have been brought up in a world where they are encouraged to speak their mind. Fitting into the police force means that employees have to abide by orders and refrain from asking questions. However, the current generation is open-minded and willing to question everything. Their curiosity makes it difficult to fit in with the traditional rules that have not been changed. This would explain why most of them opt to resign or opt to apply for other careers.
To understand new generations better, there are recommendations that non-traditional candidates should be pursued (PERF, 2019). In past practices, the candidates who would qualify the most to join the force were previous military officers or individuals from families with law enforcement history. This helped preserve the culture of the policing department since such applicants already had an idea of the expectations of police work. This strategy helped maintain the practices and procedures of police departments for a long time. However, the past year’s decline shows that there has been a change in the decisions made by job applicants across the country. The fact that more people are exposed to their rights and influenced by technology, makes them choose more comfortable careers to their liking. Diverting to non-traditional candidates helps give the law enforcement officers a fresh set of ideas that could help transition from traditional practices. New practices at the organisations will assist in understanding generation x and millennials to reform the policing career to a more acceptable level. It is important for law enforcement to acknowledge the changes in generations and find the best way to accommodate new ideas and preferences.
Issue of Retention Plans and Solution
The lack of retention plans is one of the biggest challenges facing the staffing and recruiting of law enforcement officers. The ability to meet the demand for officers exceeds the ability to meet it due to resources and other constraints (Wilson et al., 2010). There seems to be a huge difference among the current police force and the need for more officers. Cases of leaving the force, taking transfers, and absenteeism are physical withdrawals depicted within the force by employees. More law enforcement officers quit their jobs because the department is not keen on employee satisfaction. Hence, more employees tend to change their behaviour by increasing grievances and applying for other jobs. Next, police officers get into the physical withdrawal phase where they start leaving their job gradually. There are also cases of officers being psychologically withdrawn from their career. Indicators of psychological withdrawal involve officers being less productive, displaying less commitment, and pulling away from colleagues or tasks. These factors are brought about by failing to understand the generation or officers being subjected to a wide workload as discussed above.
Recommended solutions for retention plans focus on keeping the law enforcement officer content with their career and feeling a sense of belonging at their workplace. One of the means to achieve this involves conducting job satisfaction surveys by the use of questionnaires or interviews. Such surveys could be conducted on a periodical basis where each department analyses the rate of satisfaction among officers. This could give a clear indicator of how employees view their job and their likelihood to remain at the organisation. Second, greater employee engagement would make officers feel a sense of engagement in their field which would result in the sense of belonging. Most employees would prefer to remain in an organisation where they feel their opinion matters, and they contribute to society through their decisions. Having officers contribute to matters that concern their tasks would give purpose to the workers hence increasing their loyalty. Another solution would be enhancing compensation plans for law enforcement officers. If the law enforcement profession wants to be treated as a profession, the person must be paid as professionals (Nolan, 2007). This means getting better over time and pension plans. Such strategies would draw in more applicants and make them stay. Working over holidays and after-hours would be appealing to officers if they had the chance to rack in extra money to meet their needs or support their families. These benefits would encourage law enforcement employees to hold onto their jobs as they offer more than they could get at other establishments. Finally, agencies could reduce the amount of workload allocated to employees to improve their quality of work. Once employees accomplish their tasks, they will be encouraged to take up the next task. Overworking officers with numerous tasks creates a fog in their list of goals hence discouraging them. These strategies could help make the law enforcement officer feel appreciated, wanted, and well paid which would increase retention rates.

Conclusion
In conclusion, the issues contributing to the negative impact of law enforcement staffing and recruiting are simple and applicable. The lack of retention plans, failure to understand generational differences and lack of flexible schedules are all areas that have been neglected by the department but are recently receiving much attention by scholars. Working with police officers has proved to be a common idea across all contributing factors as officer want to be understood, feel a sense of belonging, and receive flexible schedules from attending to their personal needs. The issue of decreased staffing and attrition of the force could be blamed on the traditional practices of the police force that are rigid and non-conforming to new ideas. In this era, people want careers that listen to their opinions and work around their schedules. Giving applicants the benefit of the doubt – that they will perform their level best when their needs are considered – is a step in the right direction in solving this issue. The law enforcement agencies must reconsider their retention plans, compensations, and decision–making processes to pull in new applicants. The ability to gracefully organise the operations of law enforcement could contribute immensely to the perspective of individuals regarding the force, hence giving positive staffing and recruitment results.
References
Kearns, S. A. (2007). Recruitment and retention challenges for law enforcement agencies: identifying the reasons for high turnover rates of new recruits. Retrieved from https://scholarship.richmond.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2155&context=masters-theses
Langham, B. (2017). Millenials and Improving Recruitment in Law Enforcement. International Associations of Chiefs of Police: Police Chief Magazine. Retrieved from https://www.policechiefmagazine.org/millennials-and-improving-recruitment/
Nolan, G. M., & Harper Jr, D. W. (2007). What does it take to recruit and retain police officers. Working Paper]. Retrieved from International Police Executive Symposium website: www. IPES. info. Retrieved from https://www.dcaf.ch/sites/default/files/publications/documents/WPS_No2_new.pdf
Wilson J., Dalton E., Scheer C., and Grammich A. (2010). Improving Police Recruitment and Retention. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation,. https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_briefs/RB9546.html.
PERF. (2019). The Workforce Crisis, and What Police Agencies Are Doing About It. Police Executive Research Forum. Retrieved from https://www.policeforum.org/assets/WorkforceCrisis.pdf

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