By Walter A. Tangel, Chief of Police (Retired), Program Manager, and Andrew Morabito, Senior Project Specialist, Programs and Research Activities Directorate, International Association of Chiefs of Police, Alexandria, Virginia
Many police agencies have experienced difficulty recruiting and selecting applicants. In particular, agencies continue to have an especially hard time recruiting minority applicants. Since September 11, 2001, the problem has become more acute, as military reserve call-ups and an expanding police role strain agency resources across the country. The IACP has made efforts to address this pressing problem.
With funding from the Department of Justice's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), the IACP partnered with the Hartford, Connecticut, Police Department (HPD) to develop a replicable model to promote local solutions to minority recruitment and selection shortfalls. The HPD is an agency committed to narrowing the gap between the ethnic and racial composition of the department and the ethnic and racial composition of its city. It seeks to strengthen partnerships between the HPD and community leaders, organizations, and citizens; create a relationship-building strategy to enable the police and the community to collaborate to further diversify the police workforce; and use the community as a recruitment agent to fashion a police force that more closely mirrors the community racially and ethnically.
A Collaboration Model
The most exciting outcome of this effort is the Police Recruitment and Placement-Community Collaboration Model. The principal objective of the model is to position police executives and their local governments to diversify their police agencies. The model focuses on mobilizing the community in an effort to increase the number of minorities who both apply and are selected for police positions. This model is fully replicable in cities, towns, and counties across the country and has the potential to help any size or type of police agency diversify its workforce. The model has three core phases: building block activities, stakeholder action planning, and strategy implementation, monitoring, and evaluation. Based upon experience in Hartford, this model can help chief executives diversify their agencies and build stronger ties between their agencies and the communities they serve.
Phase 1: Building Block Activities
Before developing or implementing a diversification strategy, local law enforcement agencies must diagnose the recruitment problem in collaboration with the community. This is important, because prospective applicants will be not only serving the community but also coming from the community. The community will have a strong understanding of what knowledge, skills, and abilities are required of officers and some previously untapped places to recruit the individuals with those traits.
Successful employment of the model also requires assembly of a substantial body of information. Agencies should possess a complete understanding of their marketplaces and their pools of potential applicants; the structure, operation, and effectiveness of their recruitment and selection systems; and the best of contemporary recruitment and selection practices. Agencies must also enhance their own human resources processes. Each of these building block activities is crucial to a successful outcome.
Diagnose the Recruitment Population: Commercial enterprises invest substantially in market and consumer research to understand the attitudes and preferences of potential customers. Few police agencies, however, use similar tactics. During the police recruitment process, little attention is given to the characteristics of those individuals likely to be drawn to police work and those most likely to prevail in the selection process, never mind those individuals who will actually be successful officers. Therefore, the assembly of a body of data on the most important characteristics (see table 1) of the recruitment-age and pre-recruitment-age population must be gathered before any targeted recruitment efforts are begun. This information will allow agencies to focus limited recruitment resources on individuals that are most likely to seek a career in policing and can serve as a foundation for designing and implementing recruitment strategies.
The most cost-effective method for collecting this data is through the use of a formal survey. Through COPS Office funding of the Collaborative Leadership Project, the IACP has produced a model survey for police agencies, titled "Careers in Police Service." This survey is designed to obtain relevant characteristics and to diagnose the current and future recruitment populations. Once the survey is tailored to the local community in which it will be administered, a profile of individuals more likely to respond favorably to recruitment initiatives, that is, the target recruitment population, will emerge from the responses.
Identifying the target recruitment population is only the first step. Once these data have been collected, they should be complemented with job market information. This general and police-specific information will provide a clearer picture of the competition within the job market for the target population that has been identified. The local police agencies' demand for officers, comparative salaries, and benefits are obviously all core considerations for prospective hires. Community perceptions of the police department, including issues of fairness, trust, and organizational commitment to workforce diversification, may also be significant to prospective employees and those willing to assist in a community-based recruitment effort.
Diagnose the Human Resources System: Once the recruitment targets have been identified, a market survey has been conducted, and the competition has been studied, the second building block activity is to diagnose the agency's human resources system. Just as it is important for police executives to understand factors external to the agency that may affect hiring, they must also understand the internal agency practices that affect their recruitment and selection efforts.
In diagnosing the human resources system, police executives should first document or map the local testing and selection procedures. Each step of the process should be identified and placed in context to the other steps. The strengths and weaknesses of jurisdictional and agency recruitment and selection policies and practices must be identified so that factors that contribute, or serve as barriers, to successful recruitment and selection can be determined. A conventional management evaluation, documenting current activities and evaluating them against best practice standards, will best accomplish this objective. Moreover, the IACP has produced database development guidelines that include information about data collection efforts that can help agencies center upon the legal framework for recruitment and selection, the authority and administration for recruitment and selection, recruitment policies and practices, and selection policies and practices. These topics would include pertinent state statutes, civil service requirements, workforce profiles, recruitment strategies, selection sequences, and several others.
The evaluation of the HR system should be designed with the goal of identifying a series of profiles, including the following: recruitment and selection attrition, adverse impact, and turnover and retention. Each of these profiles should be evaluated as to the effect it has on the recruitment and selection of particular groups of individuals and then used to formulate recommendations for improvement. For example, a recruitment and selection attrition profile should include statistical information that traces applicants through the recruitment and selection process. It is important to maintain statistical data. Record the number of applicants, the number of applicants that appear for the initial step of the testing process, the number that survive each subsequent step in the selection process, the number that become eligible for appointment, and the number selected. These data should be grouped by race, gender, and other descriptors of local significance so that the evaluation can lead to specific recommendations for improvement in the process.
The adverse impact profile allows the chief executive to identify any agency processes that may hinder or negatively affect minority recruitment and selection. To identify this profile, information must be collected, isolating the race, ethnicity, and sex of applicants at each stage. In any effort to recruit and select minorities, this type of information will clearly provide the chief executive with a barometer of the agency's efforts to diversify the department. The final profile required by the model is for turnover and retention. Agencies should identify the sex, age, race, ethnicity, and years of service of every sworn and nonsworn member of the agency. This information should be grouped by rank, assignment or position, and, where relevant, cause of departure (resignation, termination, disability). This information will assist in tailoring the recruitment message to prospective applicants and should also guide the agency in some of its personnel policies and practices.
Best Practices: The third and final component of building block activities within the model is the inventory of best or promising practices. The search for these practices should include all three stages of the hiring process: recruitment, selection, and retention. Each has an important effect upon an agency's personnel composition. One should not be overlooked at the expense of another. The identified best practices will assist the chief executive in identifying policies and programs that have proven to be or are proving to be successful in increasing the diversity of other law enforcement organizations. Special attention should be paid to agencies with similar resources, recruitment concerns, demographics, and other pertinent characteristics.
Phase 2: Stakeholder Action Planning
Once an agency is armed with these building block products, they should begin engaging stakeholders. Stakeholders are those individuals that have an interest, or stake, in enhancing minority recruitment and selection. They are the groups and individuals that can influence the outcome, positively or negatively, in the development of strategies to address police agency recruitment and selection objectives. Incorporating the input of these stakeholders can be successfully accomplished through a series of community engagement sessions. Community engagement sessions are designed to enlist community leaders in lasting collaborative partnerships. The objectives of these engagements are to familiarize stakeholders with the recruitment issues and needs that confront the police agency, define and develop responses to the issues and needs, and promote stakeholder ownership and commitment to implementing the responses.
Mobilize Community and Government Stakeholders: The primary objective of this phase of the model is to enlist groups that have a stake in the outcome of the process. Core stakeholders might include police executives; police human resources specialists; labor and union officials; city or county human resources executives and specialists; the jurisdiction's chief administrative officer (city or county executive, mayor); the jurisdiction's legislative body; neighborhood associations; minority interest groups; and special interest groups. The chief of police should lead the mobilization effort, as leadership from the top will be essential in effecting the changes required to improve the recruitment and selection processes. Additionally, the interest of the chief executive and the agency's command staff can send a powerful and valuable message to the community that minority recruitment is a priority.
Conduct Orientation Engagement Sessions: The purpose of the orientation engagement is to introduce stakeholders to the engagement process. The agenda should focus on objectives and components of the engagement process, including stakeholder obligations (such as time commitments), benefits of participation, police department recruitment issues and needs, barriers to minority recruitment, and the value of minority recruitment. Orientation engagements can accommodate larger stakeholder audiences than are typically recommended for other types of community engagement sessions, but they should not exceed 50 individuals. Groups larger than this can become unwieldy and can also act as a barrier to an open, free-flowing exchange of information. Trust-building exercises and open-forum discussions may be used initially as a way to initiate communication among the various stakeholder groups.
Conduct Building Block and Information Engagement Sessions: These engagement sessions should convey the most important aspects of the information that was collected during the building block activities to all of the stakeholders, including information collected from the target population survey, HR system conditions, and identified best practices. It is not necessary for stakeholders to master the complexities of the information. It is necessary, however, to ensure that they are aware of the highlights and what information is available so that they can make informed decisions about recruitment and selection plans as a collaborative partnership. Moreover, conscious efforts should be directed to discovering any missing information that stakeholders feel they will need to create action plans. As a general guideline, the more substantive the information that is available, the more likely a cogent and successful plan will be developed.
Conduct Action and Implementation Engagement Sessions: Once stakeholders are familiar with the recruitment and selection problems and have familiarized themselves with the available information gathered during the building block activities, action and implementation engagement sessions should be conducted. The initial purpose of these sessions is to develop strategies that promise to promote more effective minority recruitment and selection for the local police agency. Once these strategies have been developed, an action plan should be created to implement them. The action plan will identify tasks required, the names of individuals (or groups) that will be responsible for them, and when they will be accomplished.
Assigning stakeholders into action teams should generate a number of various and complementary initiatives. Each team should include individuals of the various stakeholder groups so that each "interest" area is represented. The objectivity, planning, and other skill sets required to conduct engagement sessions is normally acquired from contract facilitators. However, if these resources are unavailable, a team consisting of both a community member and a police representative with the appropriate skill set can facilitate these action teams.
Action plans should be reasonable and practical with regard to timetables and costs. Moreover, each participant who has been given a responsibility must be held accountable for completing it. Police executives should pay special attention to plans, their requirements, and day-to-day realities to ensure that the recruitment and selection strategies can be successfully implemented.
Phase 3: Implementation, Monitoring, and Evaluation
Community engagement sessions are almost always successful. Action plans are developed. Citizens feel valued. Police representatives gather valuable information. Groups become energized to start responding to the problem identified. However, follow-up efforts are often marked by disorganization and atrophy. Consequently, sustained efforts must be made to implement the plan that was developed, to monitor it, and to evaluate the success of the initiative.
Implement Action Initiatives: Successful implementation of the action initiatives requires leadership, change management skills, and resources from within the agency. Action plans and strategies are most likely to be executed successfully when the police agency retains the leadership role and supplies the required resources, as the police agency will be best situated to respond to issues that may arise during implementation. Ideally, however, stakeholders should be included in the decision-making process because this will increase their investment in the process. If community stakeholders are relied upon, motivated, and remain engaged in the process, they will be able to bring resources and assets of their organizations and communities to the collaborative partnership.
Implementation teams should be formed that include the various stakeholder groups. These teams should be educated with regard to plan implementation essentials. This should include providing clear information with regard to the plan's objectives, task definitions, staffing, timetables, and the evolving nature of plans, generally. Police agencies must ensure that the implementation teams are familiarized and understand these concepts and techniques. Otherwise, the risk for confusion, frustration, and aggravation among both police and nonpolice partners in the implementation teams can be quite high.
Monitoring Implementation Activities: As implementation of the plan is taking place, the police agency must monitor how the plan is actually being implemented. Monitoring can reveal community changes and any issues that were unanticipated during the planning process. When the environment has changed, it may become necessary to make modifications so that the plan fits with the current landscape. Moreover, once the implementation has begun, other ideas for creative innovations are discovered, fostering a new cycle of planning and implementation.
Evaluation: Unfortunately, evaluation is an often overlooked aspect to plan implementation. Too often, agencies are either unwilling or unable to retrospectively assess the success or failure of initiatives. Formal evaluation, however, is a necessary component that must be conducted by government stakeholders, the police agency, or the HR agency. An impact evaluation should be conducted to measure the degree to which objectives have been achieved, in this case, whether minority recruitment and selection is increasing.
The evaluation should not stop there. A process evaluation, based largely on monitoring work, should also be conducted. A process evaluation is designed to examine whether the implementation process helped or hampered the achievement of the plan's stated objectives. Actions to strengthen the process should emerge from both evaluations that can assist in the agency's future recruitment and selection efforts.
What's Next with the Collaborative Leadership Project?
The Collaborative Leadership Project has now entered its second phase. In collaboration with the COPS Office, the IACP will be working with police departments in Dayton, Ohio, and Lexington, Kentucky. As was done with the HPD, the IACP and COPS are working with these agencies to enhance public trust by closing gaps in recruitment and selection of minorities and women. The model and tools that were developed in Hartford will be refined to ready them for nationwide distribution. During this second phase, new knowledge will be assembled and developed regarding police recruitment and selection shortfalls, especially with regard to the scope and dimensions of the problem.
The IACP believes this upcoming work in Lexington and Dayton will add considerable value to the model. During the past several years, the Lexington Division of Police has taken a series of successful actions to address minority recruitment shortfalls that resemble components of the Community Collaboration Model.Additionally, Lexington is now facing a shortfall in Hispanic officers, which provides for a ripe opportunity to further test the model. Likewise, Dayton is experiencing a significant minority recruitment problem and will provide fertile ground for testing the model while offering notable benefits to the city.