Recruitment and Selection of Community Policing Officers: Expanding the Applicant Pool and Identifying More Suitable Recruits

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ABSTRACT

This research focuses on developing strategies for the more effective recruitment and selection of community policing (CP) officers. University students (N = 178) reviewed descriptions of the law enforcement policing (LEP) and (CP) models. After rating each model on several evaluative criteria, one-half of the participants completed a measure of personality (Neo Personality Inventory; Costa & McCrae, 1992), while the other half completed a measure of vocational interest type (Self-Directed Search; Holland, Powell & Fritzsche, 1997). The dimensions of personality and vocational interest type were correlated with the ratings of the models. The ratings of the models supported the hypotheses that students would equate extant policing with LEP, prefer to work under CP, and experience increased interest in a career in policing once informed of the emergence of CP. These results were interpreted as suggesting that if the public were better informed about CP, the police would attract a higher number of job applicants. In addition to the above, correlational analyses revealed some conceptually meaningful relationships among the individual difference variables and the evaluations of the models. These results were interpreted as suggesting the possibility of selecting recruits whose personal characteristics represent a good fit with CP.

Changing from a traditional law enforcement policing (LEP) model to a community policing (CP) model has been a major objective of North American police organizations since the 1980s (Chacko & Nancoo, 1993; Trojanowicz & Bucqueroux, 1990). It may be argued, however, that this change requires adopting a new philosophy and strategy of policing. For example, whereas the LEP model is based on a highly centralized organizational structure, is incident driven, and emphasizes reactive response in combating crime, the CP model is more organizationally decentralized, proactive, and entails close police-community partnerships in the identification, analysis, and solution of local crime and disorder problems (Leighton, 1994; Trojanowicz & Bucqueroux, 1990).

Given the above, it is clear that a move toward a CP model involves considerable changes in the role and concomitant skills required of front-line police officers (Clairmont, 1991; Meese, 1993; Trojanowicz & Bucqueroux, 1990). For example, compared with traditional LEP officers, CP officers are called upon to demonstrate more of the following: autonomous functioning, decision making ability, innovative and analytical problem solving, effective communication with community leaders, groups, and social service agencies, and ability to plan and organize community crime prevention programs. In addition, some observers have noted that the expanded role and skills required of CP officers have significant implications for both police recruitment and selection (see e.g., Getting an Edge, 1999; Hoath, Schneider & Starr, 1998; Metchik & Winton, 1995). For example, Metchik and Winton (1995) reviewed the typical 'screening out' practices of traditional police selection and argued that CP requires more positively oriented selection criteria and procedures. This is especially true in light of the fact that significant numbers of police officers, many of whom were selected and trained under the traditional LEP model, have resisted accepting CP (Clairmont, 1991; Dicker, 1998; Roberg, 1994; Scrivner, 1995; Vinzant & Crothers, 1994). The extent to which such resistance is problematic is underscored not only by existing research which has clearly demonstrated the effectiveness of CP, but also by the enormous resources invested in the implementation of CP. In the United States, for example, since 1994 more than $7.5 billion has been invested by the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) to promote CP in law enforcement agencies (National Criminal Justice Reference Service, 2002). …