Whether you’re a law enforcement employer looking for quality applicants or an employee looking for a law enforcement job, you’ve noticed that there are a large number of vacancies for police officer positions around the United States. This high level of vacancies is crippling our nation’s ability to maximize the profession’s services to the communities they serve. Policing is a business of people providing services to other people; it doesn’t manufacture or sell products. It has to have intelligent people with a strong resolve to provide that service. But they're not applying: ABC News reported that applications are down up to 90% in some agencies around the country. A once-proud profession that people dreamed of becoming a part of now struggles to find people willing to answer its call to service.
The United States has a high turnover rate in its workforce. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 3,000,000 people per year quit their jobs in the US. As the number of vacancies in law enforcement show, our profession is not immune to this statistic. The problem of high vacancies must be addressed. To deal with this issue, we’ll need to know why people leave these jobs and why they don;, understand what can be done to reduce the problem, and what steps to take to reduce the problem.
For many years, law enforcement executives and law enforcement officers have both pointed the finger of blame at salary issues. Executives pound their fists on desks at council meetings, declaring that they’re losing their officers because they aren’t being paid enough, especially when compared to civilian jobs. However, that information simply is not accurate any longer. According to US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker salary in the US is $44,148. According to salary.com, the average police officer salary in the US is $53,507, over $9,000 per year more than the US median. We cannot hide behind the salary excuse any longer; we must look deeper at the reasons why police officers are leaving their jobs to really understand and solve the problem.nd the salary myth any longer
If salary isn’t the reason police officers are leaving, what is? There are a myriad of possible reasons, but the number one reason, according to the Gallup Poll, consumes most of the challenges we face. That reason, accounting for 75% of the reasons people quit their jobs, is a hardship with their boss. No factor for why people quit a job is more influential than the relationship between leader and follower. We’ve got to start working on these relationships at the leadership level in order to make a dent in this challenge. However, according to the book Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em, most managers do not see retention of employees as their responsibility. Until they do, they will be spending their days trying to recruit police officers from an ever-dwindling pool of candidates.
Once leaders understand and embrace the principle that they are responsible for creating a culture of police officer retention, the profession will begin to reverse the vacancy trend. Leaders must take the reins and get involved directly with employee relations within their department. This doesn’t just mean leaders at the administrative ranks; leaders at all levels, including those at the front lines, must value and implement retention practices. Forbes Magazine had some great advice for leaders wanting to build a culture of retention in their departments:
Although there remains a vast amount of vacancies in law enforcement, we can each do our part to chip away at this issue. By following the recommendations in this article, you’ll find that your department will slowly but surely replenish the number of officers on staff and reduce the number of vacancies in both the short term and the long term.
Did you just get a job as a law enforcement officer or are you trying to get one?
Law enforcement is a very rewarding career, one that can enhance your life and benefit you greatly. Preparing for a job in law enforcement shares some similarities to other careers. At the same time it has unique challenges to overcome.
Let’s take a moment to examine how you can prepare for a job as a law enforcement officer.