A Big Challenge for Small Agencies

By Paul Peluso for Officer.com 

As inflation and supply chain issues continue to wreak havoc on civilian life, law enforcement agencies have felt the squeeze as well. Gas prices, an endless backlog for new patrol vehicles and price increases for just about everything have forced chiefs and sheriffs across the county to look for cuts in already barren cupboards. This is especially true for small agencies that must grapple with dwindling budgets and a depleted applicant pool.

According to a report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, nearly half of all local law enforcement agencies in the United States have fewer than 10 sworn officers. Over 90% of local law enforcement agencies employ fewer than 50 sworn officers/deputies and serve populations less than 50,000. Small agencies have many of the same problems as larger ones but have a much smaller tax base. This means less funding for personnel, training, equipment, technology and other resources necessary to prevent crime and keep the public safe.

Officer Magazine recently spoke with three law enforcement leaders who serve on the board of governors of the Small & Rural Law Enforcement Executives Association about the challenges they face in their communities as well as possible solutions.

Managing smaller agencies

Christopher Workman, who is the Chief of Police of the Cheswold Police Department in Delaware, took the reins in 2013 after serving as a lieutenant at another department in the state. At that time, the department was comprised of one officer. Having just begun his tenth year with the department, he now oversees three full-time officers with a fourth coming out of the academy, along with five part-time officers. He says that current staff levels allow him to cover the town of 2,000 residents 24/7/365.

“I have a good working relationship with my council. They’ve done a good job with us going back and forth with what manpower we need. They also know we need to grow bigger as these developments start building more houses. If we start getting more influx of people because it just expands how much your patrol time is,” he says. “Right now, I can leave the station and patrol every street and it takes me about an hour. As these places grow, now you are looking at an hour and a half or two hours before you ever get back to the other place you were.”

Bill Brueggemann has been the sheriff of Cass County, Nebraska since 1991. When he joined the agency in 1987, he was the eighth deputy. Now, he has more than 40 deputies, most of whom work in the jail. Since he took over as sheriff in 1991, he went from an 18-bed jail built in the 1914 to a 110-bed jail that’s been in operation for about 20 years now.

The new jail building was built primarily off of federal grants from the U.S. Marshal’s Service and other agencies. Since COVID hit, the jail population is down. The average is right under 70, 40 of which come from the U.S. Marshal’s Service. “The county still very much depends on that,” he says. “The U.S. Marshal’s don’t have their own jail, so we bring in about $1.4 million each year, which helps offset the cost of the jail. We’re very dependent on that.”

Relying on grants

Travis Patten, sheriff of Adams County, Mississippi, was elected in 2016 and oversees the agency that has 77 total employees with at least 45 sworn officers. When he became sheriff, Patten made a strong push for grant money. At one point, the Adams County Sheriff’s Office averaged around $1.5 million in grants per year. The agency was able to revamp its computer system through a grant from Operation Underground Railroad. Another grant from the USDA helped pay 85% of the purchase of new patrol vehicles. This past year, however, it has been more difficult. “Some of the simple grants that we went after and tried to obtain this year we weren’t able to get,” he says. In the past, Adams County received grants for bulletproof vests on the state and local level, but this year those were denied. A grant through the Department of Justice Office for Victims of Crime was cut on a federal level. They had three officers employed full-time on that grant. It was cut by $350,000 for the agency, which took Patten down to one full-time officer and one part-time.

He said that grants make up a big part of his budget, but most federal grants, like ones through the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), are rarely funneled down to smaller agencies. “I know major cities like Los Angeles, Boston and Atlanta, those guys have a lot going on but sometimes people seem to forget that a lot of the troubles from the big cities are funneled right through our rural communities when you talk about drugs and the gun pipeline,” he says. “We need their help too.”

Despite some of the recent issues, he says smaller agencies have to keep going after grants. “Hire a grant writer on staff like we did here to write those grants and go after every grant that is possible,” he says. “We know that the county budget or city budget can’t handle everything we need to meet the law enforcement needs for the community right now. We have to rely on grants in order to sustain the integrity of our agency and keep hope alive for our community with all of the battles and different crises we’re facing nationwide.”

While the Town of Cheswold focuses on bolstering the department’s manpower and day-to-day needs, Workman has used grants to fill gaps in funding “I always laugh and say that I live off of grants,” he says. “Grants help me run this department. Whether it’s state, local or federal grants, that is what keeps me going. I have to budget accordingly to make sure that we have the most up-to-date equipment for our officers to do their jobs and that is mainly what I use those grants for: updating and upgrading technology, firearms and equipment.”

When Workman took over the department, the equipment was outdated and the patrol cars were in dire need of repairs. “We were able to apply for some state grants to begin becoming self-sufficient. Ever since then, that’s just kind of what we’ve grown to. The upgrade of our computers systems, body cameras, TASERs, anything that you can think of that is equipment related, they have come to us through grants.”

Brueggemann says that while 90% of law enforcement is made up of small and rural agencies, 90% of federal grants go to the larger agencies. “We’re competing with that constantly.” He said that part of the issue is the lack of staff and training. “We don’t know how to write grants. You take a look at the larger agencies, and they have full-time grant writers. Maybe if you can get together with other counties or your commissioner or city council that can help to try to get grants. There is money out there that is available. It’s just finding the time to write the grant and then following up. It’s next to impossible for smaller agencies.”

The hiring dilemma

Workman says that hiring and salary demands are the biggest hurdle for small departments right now. “(The council) is trying to find any way we can to raise salaries so we can complete, but it’s not that easy. When you’re fighting the Delaware State Police, who are starting people at $60,000 and you are fighting Dover, who are starting at $50,000-something, Smyrna at $50,000-something and the most I can offer you to start is $43,000. That’s a big leap. You’re talking for small departments a minimum of a $10,000 difference in pay.”

The number of applicants has also been a big hurdle to staffing. “Right now it’s very few because everybody is hiring,” he says. “I had just put out a hiring process and I got one person who I have coming out of the academy. I had one application and it was him. Luckily it fit. For a small department also, you can’ t just take people. They have to fit with your department. You need to be selective when you can’t be,” he says with a laugh. “You don’t have specialty units you can put people in, so they have to fit the mold of your department. That is becoming harder because you don’t have a pool of applicants.”

As a possible solution, Workman has begun speaking with neighboring departments about the possibility of playing a role in their hiring process. “Smaller departments such as us have to embrace the fact that you are a steppingstone,” he says “A lot of times as department leaders, as chiefs, you get to that point that you think it’s a slap in your face if someone goes somewhere else. I kind of look at it as the opposite. If we can embrace that and work with departments that get a greater pool of applicants, then maybe we can pull from those applicants with the caveat, saying ‘Look, you are going to come here and get the knowledge-base, education and training that is going to help you move to another department if you want.”

The idea would be to partner with larger department and recruit applicants that passed the requirements, but in the end were passed over. “If you continue that on a rotating basis, then you always have a pool of people because you are partnering with the people around you and not trying to fight for one yourself,” he says, likening it to Major League Baseball’s farm system. “I think if it works, it will be a big help.”

Patten says that hiring has been an extreme challenge for in Adams County. “We’re losing officers to out-of-state agencies that are paying huge sign on bonus to come and move to their state,” he says. “It’s hard for us in Mississippi where the average officer makes between $16 and $18 per hour to compete Arizona where the starting salary for a lateral is $95,000 plus a $30,000 sign on bonus. That is extremely hard to deal with.”

In order to combat this issue, the Adams County Sheriff’s Office has been going after what Patten describes as an “unorthodox” type of officer. “With the mental health crisis that is striking America right now, we had to change how we do business and how we police because of all of the reform that has been asked for and that is motion. The number one recruit here at the sheriff’s office has been social workers,” he says. “A lot of people go to college and get these degrees in social work, but the opportunities to work in those job fields are not there. What we started selling in Adams County is ‘come let us help you put your social work degree to use.’ When are dealing with the mentally ill; when you are dealing with children from broken homes; when you are dealing with domestic violence and things of that nature, everybody should have a multi-facet approach to dealing with these crimes and people expect law enforcement to be social workers.”

Patten says that the social workers are primarily recruited through social media and are put through the academy, adding that when they’ve hired, they already know how to de-escalate and are training how to read the signs when someone is going through a crisis versus when they are just agitated and angry about a situation. “When we hired these social workers and started getting them in place on each shift, I’ve seen our use of force begin to drop,” he says. “The use of TASERs and sprays and batons, all of that began to drop because de-escalation techniques were being applied and put into place. We took it a step further than that and started getting our people Crisis Intervention Training as well. It was really changed the relationship we have with the community because we were already working on building a rapport with the community, but now that people are seeing this side of officers and seeing the empathy added to that, our relationship with our community is skyrocketing down here.”

Brueggemann says that the Cass County Sheriff’s Office is currently short four deputies. A big part of that is due to the fact that larger counties have been offering sign-on bonuses, making it tough to compete. “Our county was good and gave a $2 raise to all sworn officers. It’s still $5 less than anybody around us.”

He also blames the shortage of officers on people not wanting to get into law enforcement like they used to. Last year the Cass County Sheriff’s Office spent roughly $13,000 on advertising and testing and ended up with 14 applications. Out of those, nine people showed up to the testing and out of those, four passed. Two of those four failed the polygraph and psychological test. After all of that time and money, the agency only found two qualified recruits.

“We make them sign a two-year contract. That’s about the break-even point for the taxpayers. Most of them do, but they are all looking to go to the bigger counties. It’s how much money is in your pocket at the end of the week, seems to much more important to this newer generation.”

 Reaching out for help

Workman stresses that there is no room for rivalry with neighboring law enforcement agencies. He says that working with nearby departments that are larger in size and have more resources helps keep costs down and expand capabilities.

“If we have a fatal accident, we reach out to them and request, whether it’s Delaware State Police or Dover Police or Smyrna Police, to use their fatal reconstruction team,” he says. “We don’t have that equipment and can’t afford that equipment. They have that because they have the funding or the ability to send somebody for a month or two for specialized training.”

Building those relationships takes time, and Workman says leaders of smaller departments have to be willing to put their ego aside and do what they have to in order to give their residents the best possible protection and service. “You can’t do it all, especially if you are a department this small,” he says.

Patten says that it’s imperative to connect with other departments. “Reach out to other agencies and talk to the heads of these agencies at these departments to see what they have going on. Information sharing is key to survival for law enforcement. Being able to transition to today’s time is key. The only way you are going to do that is get outside of your community, go to these conferences, network with people and see what they have and bring it back to your agency and make it fit whatever skill you need for your community.”


Join the Missouri Sheriffs’ Association and proudly display your support for your local law enforcement and Missouri sheriffs.
Your tax-deductible contribution will go a long way to ensure the office of Sheriff in Missouri remains a strong, independent office answerable to those citizens that it is sworn to serve and protect.

Justice Department Releases over $320 Million for Hiring LE Officers, Improving School Safety, Combating Illicit Drug Distribution

WASHINGTON – The Justice Department announced Friday that the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) and the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) have released over $320 million in grant solicitations for programs that advance community policing, keep school students safe, and combat the production and distribution of illegal drugs.

“The Justice Department is committed to providing our state, local, Tribal, and territorial law enforcement partners with the resources they need to keep our communities safe,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “With these funds, the Department is supporting law enforcement agencies, as well as the residents they serve, by increasing their capacity to disrupt illegal drug trafficking, hire officers committed to using best practices to serve their communities, and keep children safe in school.”

“These grants represent our commitment to provide law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve with critical resources to make our communities safer for everyone that lives, works, and plays in them,” said Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta.

The announced solicitations include $156.5 million available for the COPS Hiring Program (CHP), a competitive award program intended to reduce crime and advance public safety through community policing by providing direct funding for the hiring of career law enforcement officers. Anticipated outcomes of the CHP program awards include increased engagement in community partnerships, implementation of projects that focus on prioritized crime issues impacting communities, implementation of changes to personnel and agency management in support of community policing, and increased capacity of agencies to implement comprehensive community policing plans that build trust and reduce crime. All local, state, Tribal, and territorial law enforcement agencies that have primary law enforcement authority are eligible to apply.

Funding also includes $53 million for the School Violence Prevention Program (SVPP). This program provides funding to improve security at schools and on school grounds in the grantees’ jurisdictions through evidence-based school safety programs. Awards will be provided directly to eligible state, local, Tribal, and territorial partners. Recipients of SVPP funding must use funding for the benefit of K-12, primary, and secondary schools and students.

The Department’s Office of Justice Programs — through its Bureau of Justice Assistance and Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention — also released almost $64.7 million in solicitations to support violence prevention and response efforts in schools through the STOP School Violence Act. More information about OJP’s grants can be found at https://www.ojp.gov/funding.       

There is also $15 million available for the COPS Anti-Methamphetamine Program (CAMP) and $35 million for the COPS Anti-Heroin Task Force (AHTF) Program. The 2022 COPS Anti-Methamphetamine Program is a competitive grant program that advances public safety by providing funds directly to state law enforcement agencies to investigate illicit activities related to the manufacture and distribution of methamphetamine. AHTF is a competitive grant program that provides funding to state law enforcement agencies in states with high per capita levels of primary treatment admissions for heroin, fentanyl, carfentanil, and other opioids. These funds will be used for drug enforcement including investigations and activities related to the distribution of heroin and other opioids or the unlawful diversion and distribution of prescription opioids.

Additional information on these programs, as well as information on how to apply, can be found at https://cops.usdoj.gov/grants.

The COPS Office is the federal component of the Department of Justice responsible for advancing community policing nationwide. The only Department of Justice agency with policing in its name, the COPS Office was established in 1994 and has been the cornerstone of the nation’s crime fighting strategy with grants, a variety of knowledge resource products, and training and technical assistance. Through the years, the COPS Office has become the go-to organization for law enforcement agencies across the country and continues to listen to the field and provide the resources that are needed to reduce crime and build trust between law enforcement and the communities served. The COPS Office has invested more than $14 billion to advance community policing, including grants awarded to more than 13,000 state, local and Tribal law enforcement agencies to fund the hiring and redeployment of more than 135,000 officers.


Join the Missouri Sheriffs’ Association and proudly display your support for your local law enforcement and Missouri sheriffs.
Your tax-deductible contribution will go a long way to ensure the office of Sheriff in Missouri remains a strong, independent office answerable to those citizens that it is sworn to serve and protect.

Law Enforcement Support

Article by the


Missouri’s U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt said one of the biggest challenges confronting law enforcement today is staffing shortages caused by record-high departures and the difficulty recruiting new officers.

Speaking on the Senate floor, Blunt, a Republican and co-chair of the Senate Law Enforcement Caucus, said the root cause of this problem was predictable.

“These staff shortages are unfortunate,” Blunt said. “But they’re in so many ways predictable of a movement that villainizes law enforcement for, I think, political gain in many cases. Officers have been demoralized by the ‘defund the police’ crusade. They’ve been discouraged by prosecutors who put dangerous criminals back on the street or even put out a list of crimes that people will not be prosecuted for.”

Nationwide, interest in becoming a police officer is down significantly. It’s been that way for several years. But it is acute right now especially in places like St. Louis City and County. Hiring anyone in this economy is a challenge but it is particularly difficult for law enforcement agencies.

Blunt mentioned the Eastern Missouri Police Academy had about half as many recruits join in 2021 than they had in 2020. He said officer departures in St. Louis City and County spiked in 2021 and were at pace to be up 60 percent in each of those departments compared to an average year.

“In my hometown of Springfield, Missouri, they have 40 vacancies right now they’re trying to fill on the department,” said Blunt. “In January, the Columbia, Missouri Police Department had around 20 vacancies in a force that, at its maximum size, would be 187 or so people.”

Pelton said the additional revenue generated by Prop P, a half-cent sales tax Franklin county voters passed overwhelmingly in 2018, helped stabilize his department. A large chunk of the proceeds were directed to increasing officer salaries. He said he isn’t experiencing the kind of attrition other departments are throughout Missouri.
Still, Pelton acknowledged the trends aren’t good. “People are just not getting into law enforcement like they used to. But we are really fortunate for the support we receive here. It has made a difference.” he said.
That community support is absolutely critical to the health and well-being of any law enforcement agency.
“When I talk to police chiefs, I hear concerns that a lot of good candidates are deciding maybe law enforcement won’t be the career they want to have,” Blunt said in his remarks. “When I talk to the sworn officers that I see here every day and I see at home, I hear many of them feel they just simply have a job where they face danger but they don’t get enough support that they need to do the job they need to do.”
Support for law enforcement. In many ways, community support is the key ingredient to a healthy law enforcement.

Join the Missouri Sheriffs’ Association and proudly display your support for your local law enforcement and Missouri sheriffs.
Your tax-deductible contribution will go a long way to ensure the office of Sheriff in Missouri remains a strong, independent office answerable to those citizens that it is sworn to serve and protect.

Sheriff Announces Hiring Campaign Kickoff

  The Cass County Sheriff’s Office has launched a new marketing campaign in an effort to recruit new employees.

Over the next few months, the Sheriff’s Office will unveil recruitment videos, billboards, and other means of advertising as part of their “Change Your Future, Protect Our Future” campaign.

“We are looking for good people who want to put on the uniform and protect our community every day, but it can be a struggle to find such a large amount of qualified applicants,” said Sheriff Jeff Weber. “We have partnered with 2A Marketing in Belton to help us advertise and share the mission of the Cass County Sheriff’s Office and encourage those that otherwise may not have considered jobs in this field to now consider becoming part of our family and community.”

Ideal candidates are those who are effective communicators and problem solvers with a passion for serving the public.

The Sheriff’s Office is looking for both Missouri POST Certified and non-certified. Non-certified applicants who are selected will be given a full-time paid position in the fall 2021 Academy.

For more information visit www.cassmosheriffjobs.org.  

Effective Police Reform Means More LE Officers, Training and Equipment

Real reform looks like more funding for more positions, and more funding for more training. The Missouri Sheriffs’ Association regularly holds training conferences and offers regional training opportunities to better equip Missouri’s sheriffs, deputies, jail administrators and staff..

By Kathleen Dias, Policing the Remote and Rural for Police1

Police reform is in the air, in the news and on the Senate floor. Let’s define that phrase, and do real reform before “reform” gets done to us.

There’s nothing to lose. Doing things the way we are is leading to increasing crime rates and decreasing recruitment rates while hemorrhaging institutional knowledge as officers leave the profession in droves.

Current reform initiatives are ugly, expensive and do not work. I’ll tell you what real reform looks like. Then, let’s get it done.

Real reform looks like more funding for more positions, and more funding for more training – for every officer, everywhere, not just those fortunate enough to work for big, rich departments in cities with large tax bases. More officers means lower crime rates and emptier prisons, and that’s what everyone says they want. So let’s do it.

More officers means better coverage. It means officers can leave for training, take classes, vacations or sick days, work out, stay fit, take a BJJ class, or sleep more than four hours.

Tired cops with shoddy training make bad decisions and develop short tempers, because who doesn’t?


More training means more confident officers and fewer lawsuits. It means officers who aren’t functioning under pressure for the first time on the streets. It means officers with a chance to distinguish between someone with autism and someone with an attitude. It means officers who have used their sidearms and rifles and shotguns in low light, in a crowd, from a vehicle and from the ground, building muscle memory before they’re taking fire. It means officers who can seal a sucking chest wound while they wait for dust off during a standoff. It means a coherent answer in the courtroom when a lawyer says, “Show me your training records.”

Real reform means no green officers patrolling alone before attending an academy, ever again, no matter what. It means this is the 21st century, and policing is a profession.


Real reform looks like officers wearing vests that fit, not vests that are hand-me-downs from two hires back and two sizes too big or too small, or that don’t accommodate inconvenient breasts. It means rifle plates that protect officers against current threats.

Real reform looks like fewer back injuries with load-bearing external vests when managers and selectmen decide an officer’s health carries more weight than optics.

It looks like IFAKs and tac med training, no matter where the officer works and without having to beg. It looks like an officer who doesn’t bleed out from a leg wound because a county supervisor balked at spending $40 on a tourniquet.

Real reform looks like patrol cars with good tires and good brakes no matter how small the department or large the patrol area. It looks like radios that work, repeaters that repeat, and dispatchers who get time to eat and pee, so they can keep track of their officers’ locations and situations without the distraction of empty bellies and full bladders.

Real reform means extending OSHA regulations to every cop in every state. Firefighters have nationally recognized training, staffing and safety standards; cops should too because real reform means ending the snarky fallacy of “They knew what they signed up for.”

No one signs up to wear a bullseye without a chance to defend themselves or to spend days in a cartel grow full of banned neurotoxins without the veil of Tyvek and gloves. No one signs up to track that trash back to their homes and families.


Real reform means no cop’s family ever again gets a bill for the helicopter that evacuated their bleeding officer from a crime scene before they’re even discharged from the hospital.

It means providing care to the wounded without making them do battle alone with a work comp system loaded in favor of their employers.

It means not firing them when they get beat up, or shot, or run over and can’t get all better in six months or less. Officers are your department’s assets, not blots on a balance sheet.

Real reform means understanding that real life isn’t like TV; the good guy won’t be back by the next episode, cracking jokes with his arm in a sling. Everyone celebrates when a cop shop hires a wounded combat veteran, prosthesis and all. That veteran didn’t go from battered amputee to overcomer overnight. Reform expectations so that officers who get hurt in the service of their city get the same grace we give the veteran.


Real reform looks like pay scales that allow officers to live where their families are reasonably safe without working two side jobs. If you pay fast-food wages, you can’t complain when you get fast food quality. That’s not greed, it’s economics.

Real reform looks like secure retirement. Policing is a life-shortening field. It breaks people down physically and mentally, and the days of desk jobs for salty silverbacks are long gone.

Real reform gives the officers who do our heavy lifting a chance at a dignified life when their bodies and spirits are worn. In an economy that rationalizes millions of dollars for people who play with balls because their careers are short and hazardous, real reform uses that same reasoning to remake shoddy retirement and disability systems.


Real reform looks like changing laws that don’t work instead of penalizing officers who enforce them.

Real reform looks like contending with cops as people, instead of robots programmed to respond with emotion only when it’s convenient and photogenic.

Real reform looks like a deliberate end to the social betrayal and sanctuary trauma that comes from sending officers into the worst that humanity can wreak for years unending, and then punishing them for reacting like humans. Humans who are allowed to heal have the emotional reserves to treat other humans more carefully. That’s what everyone says they want.

Let’s do what it takes to get that.

We have long understood the nasty effects of othering, of dehumanizing, and of self-fulfilling prophecies. Real reform means pressure to apply that understanding even to cops.

Real reform means accepting that change is hard and expensive – but it’s worth it, if you do it right. Communities say they want reform now, and those communities express their priorities with their wallets as well as with their will.

If you mean it, then let’s do this – for real.

Kathleen Dias writes features and news analysis on topics of concern to law enforcement professionals serving in rural and remote locations. She uses her background in writing, teaching and marketing to advocate for professional levels of training and equipment for rural officers, open channels of communication for isolated departments, and dispel myths about rural policing. She’s had a front-row seat observing rural agencies – local, state and federal – from the Sierra foothills to California’s notorious Emerald Triangle, for more than 30 years.

Recruiting and Hiring the Next Generation of Police Officers

In an attempt to recruit more candidates, some law enforcement agencies are loosening their restrictions on visible tattoos, which means coverup sleeves like this one sold on Amazon, might no longer be required.


The American workforce is comprised of multiple generational cohorts, and their respective preferences affect the job market as well as the individual organizations that employ them.

Although not an exact science, many researchers agree that the Baby Boomer generation describes people born from 1946 through 1964; Generation X describes people born from 1965 through 1980; the millennial generation describes people born from 1981 through 1996: and post-millennials, or Generation Z, describes people born between 1997 and 2012.

The limited pool of police department applicants exists, in part, because millennials are not attracted to the law enforcement profession as previous generations had been. As police officers from the Baby Boomer and Generation X generations retire, millennials and post-millennials will be needed to fill their positions.

According to Richard Fry, of the Pew Research Center, a 2018 analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data revealed that the U.S. workforce was comprised of the following generational percentages: Baby Boomers (25%), Generation X (33%), millennials (35%), and post-millennials (5%). Millennials are currently the largest cohort (35%) in the work force.

As a start, law enforcement leaders must determine how millennials and post-millennials differ from past generations and adapt their recruiting and hiring efforts, leadership styles, policies, and systems accordingly.

The Multi-Phase Hiring Process

Most police hiring processes are designed to identify the most qualified candidates by eliminating the least qualified, like those who acted unethically or unlawfully, or are not physically or mentally able to perform the job. Still others are disqualified for drug use, a poor credit history, visible tattoos, and inappropriate social media activities.

Most police organizations have a multi-phase, or multi-hurdle, selection process that includes: a physical agility test, a written examination, meeting with an interview panel, receiving a conditional offer, a background investigation and a polygraph examination. Then there are a psychological fitness evaluation, a medical examination, and drug screening. Potential applicants can be eliminated during any phase of the process.

Portions of the hiring process for a career in law enforcement are extensive and intrusive, such as the background investigation, polygraph, psychological evaluation, and oral interview. The process requires candidates to disclose any past criminal acts or drug use, which is subsequently validated by the polygraph exam.

Although a criminal history or negative character issues are disqualifiers in many professions, the depth and intensity of the law enforcement hiring process creates more opportunities for disqualification.

Millennials and post-millennials may be more inclined to enter police work if they had a better understanding of the profession and its hiring process. Younger applicants are often uninformed about disqualifying behaviors and eligibility requirements and unaware of the complexity and intrusiveness of a police background investigation. Effective recruitment initiatives include establishing internships programs and promoting civilian ride-alongs, police camps, Explorer Programs, and other activities designed to build trust and confidence in the policing profession. These initiatives also expose potential recruits to the culture and expectations of police work.

Recruiters and social media can help clarify eligibility requirements, explain the hiring and application process, define disqualifying behaviors, and reinforce for high school and college students interested in a law enforcement career the importance of making good decisions.

Adapting to New Social Norms

At the same time, law enforcement departments must adapt to shifting cultural norms. Some agencies have revised their age, education, and residency requirements. Some have instituted easier fitness tests and less stringent drug use and credit history policies.

Law enforcement executives must also adopt a successful marketing strategy that includes a user friendly and informative web page. This page should be designed to reach and appeal to millennials and post-millennials. It should highlight the department’s achievements, diversity, technological advancements, policing philosophy, community partnerships, career opportunities, training opportunities, education incentives, salary scale, and benefit packages.

Police leaders and their recruiters must develop innovative approaches to recruit younger generations because relying only on traditional methods such as career fairs and on-line job postings are ineffective for recruiting millennials. The Police Executive Research Forum identified as one innovative approach developing a “farm system to recruit applicants, similar to efforts by colleges and universities to identify star athletes in high schools or even middle schools.”

Law enforcement recruiters should go into the high schools, trade schools, junior colleges, and four-year colleges and develop relationships with teachers, criminal justice program directors, and counselors to identify potential police candidates.

Being present on local college campuses or at college events and fundraisers gives recruiters opportunities to meet students and foster trusting relationships. Young people need to recognize the role of police officers as allies and not adversaries, as the media commonly portrays them.

Law enforcement leaders should develop strategies to expand the recruitment process rather than limit it. They need to streamline the hiring process, thus encouraging potential candidates to seek a career in law enforcement. Police agencies must be committed to identifying and employing the best-qualified candidates available, not merely eliminating the least qualified.

By Dr. Nicole Cain, Faculty Member, Criminal Justice American Military University | American Military University Edge

About the Author: Dr. Nicole Cain is an assistant professor with American Military University and has instructed numerous criminology and forensic courses online for more than 14 years. She recently earned her Ed. D. in Organizational Leadership from Southeastern University. Nicole has more than 20 years of law enforcement experience serving in a variety of capacities to include patrol operations, uniform crime scene, community-oriented policing (COP), and criminal investigations.

Nicole is currently assigned to the Criminal Investigations Section’s Felony Intake Office where she prepares all felony cases for the State Attorney’s Office. During her career in law enforcement, she has authored police reports, arrest affidavits and search warrants, observed autopsies, testified in court, processed crime scenes, interviewed witnesses, and conducted interrogations.

Dr. Nicole Cain is faculty at AMU. She has 20+ years of law enforcement experience as patrol operations, uniform crime scene, COP, and criminal investigations. She is currently assigned to the Criminal Investigations Section’s Felony Intake Office and prepares all felony cases for the State Attorney’s Office. She recently earned her Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership.

Recruiting and Retaining Officers in Small and Rural Agencies

In December 2019, the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services held a day-long forum to discuss the challenges of law enforcement recruitment and retention and specifically focused on th​​ese issues in relation to smaller and more rural law enforcement agencies. The 32 participants included police chiefs, captains, lieutenants, academic experts, researchers, and agency directors of state police standards.

The forum’s small size allowed for a wide-ranging discussion that focused on the qualities that make an effective police officer, an in-depth examination of why people leave a department, the most significant challenges to recruiting and retaining officers, and a brainstorming session on the range of strategies these departments use to attract and keep officers. The result was an exchange of ideas and success stories that reflected the unique regional and size differences between the departments.

– Click here to view the publication –

The COPS Office publishes materials for law enforcement and community stakeholders to use in collaboratively addressing crime and disorder challenges. These free publications provide you with best practice approaches and give you access to collective knowledge from the field. By clicking on this link, you can find our recent and featured publications, and you can also search the Resource Center or our Community Policing Topics pages for specific issues or call the COPS Office Response Center at 800-421-6770.

Agencies Should Actively Recruit Female Police Officers

Since the late 1800s, women have balked at the notion that some professions are meant only for men. In 1845, the American Female Reform Society pushed for the placement of women in prison systems to protect female inmates. Flora Foster was one of two women assigned to work in a New York City prison in 1845 and worked in the facility for 36 years.

The first woman police officer to be hired was in Chicago in 1890. It took more than 100 years, but in 1985​​, the first female police chief to head a large agency was hired in Portland, Oregon.

Although women began their law enforcement careers in support roles, they never ceased to aspire to work side by side with men as police officers. This dream came to fruition in the 1960s as women finally became a significant contributing factor to our nation’s security.

The Number of Female Police Officers Has Increased Over Time, Except in Leadership Positions

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, women in sworn positions in the United States averaged 11.9% in 2010. The number of female police officers in federal law enforcement has been reported slightly higher at 15%.

By 2013, women made up one in eight police officers in local law enforcement agencies. Women who held corrections and bailiff positions averaged 24% of the workplace as of 2015.

Statistics have not increased dramatically in recent years, and the data on women in leadership positions is discouraging. Approximately 10% of female law enforcement officers are in supervisory positions and only 3% are in high-ranking chief positions.

Female Officers Are Highly Effective in Conflict Resolution and Sexual Assault Case Resolutions.

Women police officers thrive on interaction with the community and participation in service-related events. Female officers excel at conflict resolution with both adults and juveniles. This reflects positively on the law enforcement community, because these types of activities make up 80% of police work.

According to a study by University of Illinois professor Amie M. Schuck in 2018, law enforcement agencies with higher percentages of women officers have higher clearance rates for sexual assault cases. This statistic may be attributed to relational theory — the ability of female victims to form a trusting bond with those of the same gender.

Results from the study indicate that female officers possess the interpersonal skills needed to encourage victims of sexual violence to file criminal charges. With the upsurge of sexual assaults on college campuses, researchers have suggested that an increased presence of female officers, who currently only average 17% of the sworn officers on college campuses, would benefit the academic community.

The sensitive details of sexual assault crimes require an empathetic approach that avoids victim blaming and secondary victimization. Women officers have proven their ability to investigate gender-based crime effectively and should be actively recruited for campus law enforcement leadership.

Female Police Officers Are Less Likely to Use Excessive Force

Studies indicate that female police officers are less likely than their male counterparts to use excessive force and participate in dangerous pursuits. The notion that because a female officer is smaller than a male and may arbitrarily shoot a suspect due to a fear for her life has quickly been quelled.

Researchers found that 30% of male officers had discharged their weapon in situations other than training, compared to 11% of women officers. Female officers have also proven skilled at deescalating situations through communication rather than force.

There also appears to be a higher tolerance of females in law enforcement working the streets. Women are 50% less likely to be ridiculed by citizens while on duty, but male officers are three times more likely to be threatened.

Women Officers Have Repeatedly Proven Their Heroism

According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, 13 women lost their lives in the line of duty during 2019. As of July 2020, that number had already matched the 2019 deaths.

History is full of heroic stories of women officers who have broken up drug and prostitute rings, arrested dangerous suspects, uncovered internal illegal activities, and saved fellow officers’ lives. But one story stands out beyond the call of duty.

Jennifer Fulford-Salvano, a deputy with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office in Ocoee, Florida, responded to a burglary in progress call and was first on the scene. Dispatch received the call from an eight-year-old boy who claimed he and his sisters were hiding in the garage and that three men had entered their home with guns.

Without waiting for backup, the deputy entered the garage to bring the children to safety. The three men were tipped off, entered the garage, and fired on the female officer multiple times. Although Deputy Sulford-Salvano was struck a total of 10 times (including her shooting hand), she managed to keep the children safe and force the assailants into the custody of backup officers who arrived at the scene.

A more recent story is the amazing bravery of Nicole Battaglia who, along with two other police officers in Alexandria, Virginia, responded to a shooter at a Republican congressional baseball team’s practice in 2017. Battaglia drew the attention of the shooter as soon as she pulled up to the chaotic gun battle.

Two Capitol police officers had already been shot and were attempting to position themselves to bring the gunman down. By distracting the shooter, Battaglia allowed two other officers who arrived on scene to surround the gunman and quickly de-escalated the situation, saving many lives.

Women Are Well Able to Fulfill the Difficult Demands of Police Work and Should Be Actively Recruited

There are many challenges females face when choosing a law enforcement career. One of the biggest challenges is learning to cope with disturbing, violent acts that are carried out on the most vulnerable victims, such as children, animals, the elderly, the disabled, and our veterans.

Another issue that females face is convincing those around her she holds a position of authority. Women officers must not only prove to their coworkers that they can do the job, but also demand the respect of those they investigate or arrest.

Many jobs require skills and mental stamina. The role of a police officer role particularly demands these attributes, plus physical strength and emotional stability. Women have been proven equal to men in policing, and they should be actively encouraged to join our law enforcement communities.

By Dr. Dena Weiss, Faculty Member, Criminal Justice at American Military University | In Public Safety inpublicsafety.com

About the Author: Dr. Dena Weiss is an associate professor at American Military University, teaching courses in criminal justice and forensic science. She recently retired after working 24 years as a crime scene investigator and fingerprint examiner for a central Florida police department. Prior to that position, she was a serologist for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Her court experience includes testifying in more than 200 federal and circuit court cases in over 15 Florida counties.

Dr. Weiss is also an active member of the Florida Emergency Mortuary Operations Response System (FEMORS). Her educational background includes a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry and Sociology and a master’s degree in Forensic Science from Virginia Commonwealth University, as well as a Ph.D. in Business Administration with an emphasis in Criminal Justice.