Turnover: A Small Agency Nightmare

By Warrell, George, III | Law & Order, September 2000 | Go to article overview

Turnover: A Small Agency Nightmare


Warrell, George, III, Law & Order


Managing a small law enforcement agency has its ups and downs. One of the ups is the camaraderie that usually goes with a small agency. Small agencies are generally tight-knit groups that become second families to many members. However, small agencies also have problems.

Personnel turnover is one of those problems. A lot of time and money is often spent acquiring and training new officers to replace those that leave for larger departments.

Why is turnover such a problem, especially for small departments? For the most part, it is the result of four issues: training, wages, equipment and working conditions. Officers who leave because of other reasons are usually a very small percentage.

Training

Training is probably at the top many officers' lists of reasons for quitting and moving on to larger departments. Training is an issue that is not only important to the officer but to the community he serves. However, it can also be a very large expense that strains the budget.

One way to relieve the strain is to become a host agency for training programs. As a host agency, your department sponsors a particular trainer to come in and teach a specific subject at our agency for little or no cost to your department. Trainers commonly require for instance, that a department solicit at least ten paying participants to attend a program. In return the trainer provides the host agency with free spots in the course-usually two for every ten paying students who attend.

This type of agreement works well both sides. The trainer receives free local promotion by the host, a classroom or other required facilities, and paying students. The sponsoring agency receives training for its officers for little or no cost. It's a win-win situation for both sides.

A cadet program through a local college is another resource that can save a small department money. Such a program might also offer entry-level training that can be used as refresher courses for veteran officers. Some of these courses include: basic law, police procedures, traffic accident investigation, police report writing, and a wide variety of other law enforcement subjects. Instructors for these programs are generally knowledgeable P.O.S.T. certified instructors who are willing to share their knowledge with other police officers, rookie or veteran.

In-house trainers also can stretch a department's dollar. An in-house trainer can provide inner agency training for a small initial investment: The cost of sending one officer to an instructor course. This specially trained officer can then return to the department and teach other officers how to perform or maintain a specific skill or technique. Over time (generally a very short time) this one instructor can save their department a lot of money.

Wages

Running closely with the training issue is wages, an issue that has always plagued law enforcement. Every police officer at sometime in their career has probably heard a supervisor comment, "if you're in this profession to get rich, you are in the wrong profession." For some strange reason this statement doesn't seem to help much. While begging city council members or county commissioners doesn't seem to be very effective either, there are a few things that can be done to help.

Grants may provide some assistance to this problem. Certain grants, depending on the type, may be used to pay costs such as overtime pay. Overtime pay can be a wonderful incentive to offer-and it can make a world of difference to many hard working officers.

For instance, many traffic safety grants offer this type of funding. Grant applications are generally available through applicable state transportation departments. Traffic safety grants are available to help increase safety restraint usage, child safety seat usage, DUI enforcement and to improve any other problem area in that particular state relating to transportation. …

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