Webinar presenters Kevin Morison and Sarah Mostyn answered a number of your questions after their presentation, The Workforce Crisis and What Law Enforcement Agencies are Doing about It. Here are just a few of their responses.
Audience Question: The first request that we actually have Kevin is from Stephanie, wondering if you can show the slide for retention strategy number four. Sounds like Stephanie wanted to copy some information down on that.
Kevin Morison: It is a retention strategy number four. Yeah, well that’s the one that promotes work-life balance and that where I talked about the scheduling changes that some agencies have made to ensure that all of their personnel get some weekends off is really what it boils down to in some cases.
Audience Question: Our experience is that a number of candidates aren’t passing the background investigation. Is this accounted for everywhere? Are there things that agencies are doing to address that issue?
Kevin Morison: Yeah. Well, that’s interesting. I think you know the – I have to know the details on how they’re failing that background. You know, as I said some agencies are sort of rethinking what are the disqualifiers. A big one was for a long time with debt. If you came in with excessive debt, you know, the thinking was, well, perhaps you’re subject to you know bribery or misconduct on some part in order to make a little extra money. Again, the reality is anyone who’s gone to college, coming at college these days has a fair amount of debt. I think some agencies are relaxing that, and drug use as well. One thing that we certainly don’t advocate is to short-change your background investigations. When I was talking about streamlining the process, you know, typically we find that’s one of the longest elements of that process so, you know agencies being able to conduct both a thorough background but also being able to do that as quickly as possible I think is important. Yeah. It’s an interesting issue though around background investigations and you know, It’s a challenge.
Audience Question: Are you seeing any patterns and agencies that have vacancies that are significantly above the national average?
Sarah Mostyn: I don’t think that we saw any particular blaring outliers. I think what we found was not everyone’s seeing the issue on the same magnitude. There’s some better doing really well with retention but are struggling with the recruitment and vice versa. So it’s not looking the same in every single agency and we really encourage agencies to kind of sit down and look at what their issue areas are and see what they can do to improve that because it’s not uniform across the board issue that we’re seeing looking the same in every agency.
Audience Question: Are you finding that agencies are keeping up with pay scales and that employees are seeing that employment packages are competitive and attractive?
Kevin Morison: Yeah, you know, we didn’t really didn’t talk much about money at all today and part of that is you know money is sort of fundamental to the whole process and at the same time we heard from some of our young officers that money wasn’t always the deciding factor, but money is certainly important. Yeah, I think what we found is in a lot of cases. There’s been an arms race of sorts within geographic regions. You know, I talked a bit about the signing bonuses, but really that’s just sort of icing on the cake for agencies that have looked to increase their starting pay because again, you know, a typical candidate will apply to multiple agencies and while they will tend to go with the first one who you know, raise their hand. If a couple raise their hand at the same time and one pays significantly more than the other, you know, my guess is that that’s where they’re going to go as well. So I think I would say we really didn’t look at this would be an interesting thing to look at is how has starting pay changed recently and my instinct says that it shot up especially in larger agencies and in major metropolitan areas they are competing with other agencies that you know, sort of you know arms race for pay is really part of it is just supply and demand but also looking at trying to attract quality.
Audience Question: Some agencies are no longer specifying a maximum age relying on their physical fitness test to identify candidates that would not be able to meet those requirements. Do you see this as a growing trend and are there potentially unintended consequences of this approach?
Kevin Morison: Yeah, that’s sort of the trade-off as we asked have you relaxed your physical standards and a certain number of agencies said they had. Seriously, I was at the Washington DC Metropolitan Police Academy recently before COVID struck us all and kept us all at home and they’re really taking a different approach to physical fitness among their recruits. I think in a lot of agencies traditionally it’s been you set the standards and early on in the process you have to do of X number of push-ups. You need to run that mile and a half in x amount of time, you need to do, a, b, c, and d and if you don’t do that you’re out. And what the head of professional development in the DC police department said we are finding folks that are missing their mile and a half times by two and three seconds. Yes, if someone’s missing by two or three minutes you might rethink but is that really that critical job-related skill that they need to be able to run this mile and a half in this amount of time? So rather than just immediately disqualified them they actually – the department actually hired a former I think it was a professional baseball player as a trainer who works with every single recruit who comes in there and develops a physical fitness plan. So if they’re weak on running they work on that, if they’re weak on push-ups, they might work on upper body strength and they work with it with the recruits throughout the training process so that you know, so, a.) they’re becoming more physically fit, and b.) they see physical fitness as sort of a part of my life and part of my career as opposed to okay, I got to pass these standard today. In many police departments once you pass those standards early on there’s few if any physical fitness requirement a 10-year 20-year whatever but to sort of treat physical fitness as a lifelong goal. And interestingly what the department was fighting was a lot of recruits were getting injured in a day or two before they had to you know, pass their physical fitness tests because they were really trying to work up to be able to meet those standards. And with this news, you know as many as you know, I think the gentleman said 20 to 25 recruits at a time out sick. Now that’s two or three at a time because they’re really working on, okay, what do I need to work on? How can I become more physically fit? There’s not the pressure of okay I have to pass today or never. So I think I’m not trying to suggest the physical fitness isn’t is a part of being a police officer. It is and should be and department should probably look at physical fitness throughout officers’ careers, but I think some agencies like DC police are taking just a new approach to how do you do that? How can I make my employees more physically fit and not think of physical fitness as a chore but rather as a life skill. So I hope that sort of answers the question.
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