In recent years police agencies nationwide have had a needed increase in hiring new employees. Conversely, these same agencies have had an increasingly difficult time retaining employees. I will be covering some possible reasons why and that history is possibly repeating itself.
In a NIJ study from July ’04 Dr. C. Koper from the University of Pennsylvania found the following statistics: Due to rising crime rates in the 80’s to early 90’s, Congress passed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. This legislation included the Public Safety and Community Policing Act (Establishing the COPS program), which provided funding to put an additional 100,000 police officers on the Nation’s streets. Slightly more than half of the Nation’s police agencies grew in strength from 1996 to 1999. The supply of good recruits was down throughout the Nation by the summer of 2000. More than half of small agencies and two-thirds of large agencies with vacancies reported the lack of qualified applicants caused difficulty in filling those slots. The reasons were not examined. The following are possible explanations:
Today we are experiencing most if not all of those same issues. Years ago when the hiring started most applicants were looking for good pay, benefits and job security. We will call those lower-order motivational needs. Today’s applicants are looking to satisfy higher-order, ‘Hygiene needs’ of belongingness, self-esteem, and self-actualization. Officers being recruited today are seeking challenging work environments and problem solving opportunities. When these needs go unmet for an extended period of time, it causes internal conflict for the individual. Other contributing factors:
Agencies are also having another problem that is concerning. Experienced officers from the 90’s are now retiring. This is causing a gap in experience between new hires and experienced officers. Agencies should try to find ways to retain their experienced officers for a little long to better bridge the gap. There are some that are going to leave no matter what you do. These are the people who came into the job with the sole plan of using the job as a stepping stone “getting your foot in the door”. The following are some ways to help a department to retain employees who are on the fence.
The best resources we will have to evaluate the reasons for officers leaving are exit interviews. Agencies should always make time to interview people to get there feedback and reactions to the way we do business.
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