The hiring process of a person seeking a career in law enforcement is a complex process with the ultimate goal of selecting the most qualified candidate who meets the standards of conduct as set by the agency. The process must be objective, consistent and equally applied to all candidates. In addition, the process must be compliant with all applicable Federal, state and Local laws as they apply to the hiring of a law enforcement officer. Included in this multi-faceted process is the recruitment stage, the applicant stage, the testing stage, the oral interview stage, the background investigation stage, the medical and psychological testing stage, the polygraph stage (if allowed by local law), the oral interview stage and finally the hiring stage. All of these stages involve some type of screening, interviewing and information processing.
Agency members who participate in all of the phases necessary to complete the mission of hiring the most qualified individual as a law enforcement officer must document not only their qualifications to participate in the process, but must also document all of the information involved in the hiring process. This “process” cannot operate in a vacuum and must include supervisory oversight at all points in order to ensure the integrity of the process, as well as, enhancing the agency’s ability to attract, hire and retain quality candidates.
Law enforcement agencies must choose the members of their recruitment team carefully, as they are going to be the “face” of the agency. It is important for the recruitment team to represent the diversity of the agency, and those individuals must be familiar with all of the agency’s attributes, such as: salary, benefits, variety of job opportunities, promotional opportunities, working conditions, etc. The law enforcement agency must put it’s faith in those officers chosen to conduct the background investigation, and these officers must be trained in the legal issues regarding disqualifying candidates from the selection process. The recommendations of these officers must be followed as long as they are fact based and documented.
There are many factors that influence who and how an agency recruits. These include, but are not limited to budget considerations, educational requirements, demographics, skill sets of the individuals applying, and the political climate of the locale that is involved in the recruiting.
The success or failure of the initial recruitment process can be influenced by the budget. Although the budget for a recruitment and selection process should not be limited, many times it is. More often then not, the sequence of events in a law enforcement agency’s hiring process is dictated by the budget, or lack thereof. This causes certain phases to frequently be conducted out of a logical sequence. The so-called “free” portions of the process are conducted first. That is why one sees the physical fitness assessment given first; it costs the agency nothing more than the time of the officers involved to conduct it. It really only costs the agency money when an outside agency, either law enforcement or private entity, conducts the physical fitness assessment.
One part of the selection process that should neither be rushed nor short-changed is the background investigation. Background investigations play a critical role in ensuring the integrity of the process. In order to make a valid evaluation of the individual, it is crucial that as much information as possible be known and that the investigation be of high quality.
Recruiters must focus on individuals who reflect the community that they are going to serve, who possess good communication skills, have an ability to be problem solvers and possess a keen desire to be “community law enforcement officer.”
Remember the process begins with recruiting!!!
A Law Enforcement Agency is obviously only as good as the quality of the members it hires. There is an increasing need in Law Enforcement to engage in a hiring process that is transparent, proactive and reflective of the community it serves. Law Enforcement Executives, as well as, Local political officials must recognize this need. It is their responsibility to establish a process that is comprehensive, well balanced, objective and equitable.
Law enforcement managers must recognize that the selection of qualified entry level candidates is the most critical issue facing them, not only for the present but for the future as well.