The Workforce Crisis, and What Law Enforcement Agencies Are Doing About It

The Workforce Crisis, and What Law Enforcement Agencies Are Doing About It
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1Resources
Recorded on: 2020-04-07
Unit 1Slide Deck: The Workforce Crisis, and What Law Enforcement Agencies Are Doing About It
Unit 2Workbook: The Workforce Crisis, and What Law Enforcement Agencies Are Doing About It
Unit 3Recording: The Workforce Crisis, and What Law Enforcement Agencies Are Doing About It

Law enforcement agencies are facing a crisis. Pressures from different sides pose multiple threats to the workforce as agencies remain understaffed, the number of applications dwindling, voluntary retirement rising, and more officers become eligible to retire. What must be done to attract more people into the profession and slow down the loss of people?  Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) provided actionable points on how to do this.

PERF’s Sarah Mostyn and Kevin Morison join the Justice Clearinghouse to discuss the workforce crisis in the law enforcement field. Sarah is a Senior Research Associate with PERF and she provides research, programmatic and logistical support in PERF’s various initiatives. Meanwhile, Kevin is PERF’s Chief Program Officer leading research and management projects that aim to improve police operations. He has an extensive background as a civilian in law enforcement and criminal justice focusing on policy, research, and communications.

Points they discussed in this session include:

  • The ongoing workforce crisis that law enforcement agencies are facing and the survey and conference that PERF conducted to quantify and understand the impact of the crisis.
  • How both ends of the workforce pipeline create the four main challenges identified from the PERF Workforce Survey and Conference.
    • Understaffed agencies as demonstrated in the disparity in the increase between total US population vis-à-vis number of sworn officers, and the agencies’ self-reported understaffing levels.
    • Fewer individuals interested in working with law enforcement as evidenced by the decline in candidates that may be attributed to the decrease in traditional pipelines as legacy career families and military, and the negative public perception of the profession.
    • More voluntary resignations as seen in the shorter length of service brought about by competition with other agencies and career path shifts.
    • More retirement-eligible officers are leaving service and are forecasted to be retiring soon which causes the loss in both numbers and experience of officers.
  • The changing face of policing: How the change in the personalities in the workforce gave rise to…
    • New policing philosophy and increased responsibility that’s geared towards community engagement and social issues.
    • Innovations in technology and investigative techniques.
    • Updates in laws brought about by new crimes.
  • How the changes in policing amplified the key skills required for officers today.
  • PERF’s identified promising approaches to recruiting that looks into:
    • Expanding the applicant pool by relaxing certain requirements, aligning the incentives based on what applicants want/need and finding non-traditional candidates.
    • Providing a realistic portrait of policing to weed out those who get attracted to the profession but end up leaving service due to unmanaged expectations.
    • Streamlining the application process by consolidating steps in the process, reducing the time between steps, and maximizing technology where applicable.
    • Adopting a high-touch approach by fostering relationships with the candidates and institutions where candidates are likely to be from.
    • Growing your agency’s own talent through programs that slowly eases potential candidates into the profession from an early age like explorer and cadet programs as well as internships.
  • Retaining workforce efforts based on PERF’s workforce survey and conference.
    • Rethinking and realigning incentives based on the officers’ goals in career and life.
    • Broadening the officers’ experience and skills through cross-assignment and skill-building opportunities.
    • Focusing on career planning and development to pave a path for the officers based on their expertise, strengths, weaknesses, and goals.
    • Promoting work-life balance by employing flexibility in their schedules.
    • Focusing on the officers’ holistic wellness throughout their career.

Questions during the Q&A were about:

  • Factors to consider on background investigation and some ideas on relaxing this a bit.
  • Outliers in the data collection.
  • Competitiveness of compensation packages for employees.
  • Relying on physical fitness instead of age to identify quailed candidates.


Other Webinars in this Series Include:


Handouts and Resources


Audience Comments

  • “Very helpful research-based information to help us recruit/retain criminal justice professionals.” — Tony
  • “I liked the ideas for incentives to recruit. We are doing most of the strategies mentioned, but still having a hard time recruiting and a lot of that deals with competing with other agencies that offer better incentives than we do.” — Victoria
  • “Mr. Kevin Morison and Ms. Sarah Mostyn were excellent speakers and they did a great job at answering the viewer ‘s questions too.” — Joseph
  • “I have been conducting law enforcement backgrounds for 11 years. I worked as a deputy for Los Angeles County for 15 years. Overtime was the driving factor for my generation. I found the statistic for work-life balance being the driving force interesting.” — Jodi
  • “Being in a similar field the information applies, interesting to see a poll of what people value.” — David
  • “It was fascinating to hear what different agencies are offering and the programs they conduct to better recruit and retain their officers. It makes me want to investigate what our agency offers and how we might better it.” — Maclane


Additional Resources
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