Recruiting Officers in the New Millennium

By Baxley, Neil | Law & Order, February 2000 | Go to article overview
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Recruiting Officers in the New Millennium


Baxley, Neil, Law & Order


Historically many police recruits have come either from law enforcement families or from military backgrounds, but these resource pools have begun to dry up. The military is struggling to meet its own quotas for quality personnel and many of those who do join the military learn a trade - particularly in the technology fields - and then take their education into the private sector for the "big money."

Another reason many young adults opted for law enforcement careers in the past is that they wanted to serve the communities in which they lived. Many joined to help stop the drug problem. Today's new recruit rarely makes such an idealistic statement. Most are just seeking a paycheck, insurance and benefits.

In this new millennium, finding quality individuals to serve as police officers will become more difficult. Most agencies look for individuals with a clean criminal background, good personal background, high school diploma and an associate's degree at minimum. The growing tendency to tolerate some history of drug use or criminal activity by recruit candidates is evidence of the increasing difficulties in recruiting. Many agencies now take into consideration the type and amount of drugs used, the length of time since last use and the nature of the offense. Those who have merely "experimented during high school or college" are often allowed to join the force.

In order to attract more desirable candidates, the governing bodies must be willing to accept the increased cost of paying for quality law enforcement. Current entry-level salaries range from $14,000 annually in some southern states to over $40,000 in top departments. Asking a person to pin on a badge and then live near the poverty level is unacceptable. No police officer should have to receive social services subsidies to make ends meet.

A good benefits package is as important as an attractive salary. Potential recruits will examine educational benefits as well, looking to see which employers encourage expanding their education and which employers provide monetary rewards or pay for the training.

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