I have been on what you would call a “revival” tour in the last several years about law enforcement recruiting. Unfortunately, I must be a terrible evangelist because there has not been a revival. I have had the honor of being in front of a lot of cops across the country in the last two decades so I have a pretty good sense of where the profession has been and where it is going. It hasn’t always been a comfortable feeling to speak like a prophet and I’ve taken my fair share of criticism but for the most part, it’s been right….not because I’m good but I listen to others and relay what they say.
When I say law enforcement must change recruiting immediately or the profession as we know it and the safety (that is left) in communities will be eroded, I mean it with every fiber that is in me.
In previous articles, I spoke about how law enforcement has not really had to recruit in the past and I have questioned simply paying for additional online marketing in the name of recruiting. I know that law enforcement executives and recruiters are doing everything they can and I am not questioning their effort but in these dire times, we all should question if what we are doing is actually working.
I was recently teaching a courageous leadership course at an agency when a recruiter walked by at a break carrying a box of squishy police cars. You are probably familiar with these marketing toys because you see them at a booth and grab a few for your kids and I doubt you became a cop because of it.
I stopped the officer and I asked about the toy cars. After he told me they were for recruiting, I asked if they worked? He looked confused as he asked, “what do you mean?”
“Have these toy cars increased your applicants,” I asked.
He gave me a smirk and just kept walking. I wasn’t trying to be a jerk but if we aren’t evaluating our efforts, what are we doing?
Last week, I was out of town for a funeral when I saw a local career fair. I walked in and saw several law enforcement agencies staring at each other and not one potential applicant was walking around. After speaking with each recruiter, they all told me it was a waste a time. One recruiter told me that he had been trying to get his agency to recruit differently but no one wanted to hear it.
“We’ve always done it one way but this way will never work again,” he told me.
He is right and I’m saddened to say that if law enforcement recruiting does not change tactics, it’s over.
The recruiting issues that we are facing at the moment are not temporary and while I don’t have time to go into all of the reasons why, this issue is in the beginning stages.
But our profession can change that today.
A New Way Of Recruiting
I’ve written several articles on this issue and I encourage you to look at them but for now, here are some quick points to consider:
- The Private Industry does not use employees from the industry to recruit. They use professionals and we should consider doing the same.
- Stop paying money to “advertising agencies” for additional website views. While your website can assist with recruiting, it should primarily be a marketing tool. Plus, what many of these ad firms won’t tell you is they are prohibited by social media companies to target age, race, etc. in their advertisements. If you want to pay money for the 75 year-old white guy to see your website, go for it, but if you want to recruit you will need a different strategy.
- Raising the salary and benefits is a good thing but don’t think that it will help your recruiting in the long run. Sure, you may steal (or borrow) some cops from another agency but real recruiting is convincing someone to come into the profession and your agency and salary isn’t even in the top three of what potential employees want these days.
- Finally, this is going to take a real effort above and beyond some social media posts, fancy website or “tactical cool” video.
There is much more I could cover but let me send you over to a group that is on the cutting edge of law enforcement recruiting. They are helping a ton of agencies for free and they are doing things that are really working.
SAFEGUARD Recruiting is owned and operated by law enforcement. This isn’t some “bait and switch” where I’m trying to sell you something because I have nothing to sell. I am genuinely concerned for the profession and the insanity of our leaders doing the same thing and expecting a different result. I have vetted a ton of companies and I am convinced, without a doubt, that if you can embrace what SAFEGUARD is doing, our recruiting issues will be eliminated.
Travis Yates is the author of “The Courageous Police Leader” and former ILEETA Trainer of the Year. His training seminars in risk management, leadership and recruiting strategies have been taught across the world including 47 states. You can reach Travis and get additional resources at: travisyates.org.