Despite the best efforts of recruiters, police departments all over the US are understaffed. Gulf Coast Police Department (GCPD) needs 11 new officers clear of criminal, drug abuse, or lying history. One of the ways to fill all the vacancies is by attracting newly graduated students to apply for various policy positions. As a result of having fewer employees than required, promotions to ranks and other positions throughout the department are on hold until all vacancies are filled. The present paper analyzes the reasons for GCPD’s problems and offers measures to address these issues.
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Even though there is a sufficient number of candidates who want to become police officers, most of them do not adhere to all the requirements concerning the personal history of drug abuse, criminal records, physical health, and age. At the same time, people, who have the knowledge, skills, and abilities to become police officers, have a wide variety of career choices. Even those graduates choosing the path of joining police forces can apply for jobs in agencies with better salaries, benefits, and opportunities than GCPD. Therefore, the department is to find unique ways to attract suitable applicants to fill in vacancies.
Today, police officers are viewed as people, who can use almost any means to enforce the law. Moreover, they are local authorities and they can make people do what they believe is right. Therefore, the position attracts people that want to get easy access to power, even though they do not adhere to standards or do not fulfill certain criteria. This matter creates a situation where GCPD may have an overwhelming number of applicants with very few of them who will be accepted for training. Moreover, most of them quit during training or shortly after starting working. Thus, GCPD must address the issues described to have a sufficient number of officers patrolling the streets.
As stated above, the central problems with police understaffing lie in wrong motives of joining the forces, not fulfilling the requirements to be suitable for the job, and not having enough to offer to candidates. To address these issues, GCPD has to identify the requirements to enter the police forces, improve the general image of a police officer, and offer exclusive benefits. The clear statement needed qualifications will help to avoid spending money on training people who are likely to quit shortly after employment. This money can be spent on other matters, such as improving the image of the job in general and the police department in particular.
Such investments will pay off in the long perspective, as GCPD will spend less on turnover. Additionally, the department can utilize its unique advantage of working on a university campus to assess and address the exact needs of its future applicants.
Step 1: Identifying Criteria
Traditionally, people who want to become police officers have to be physically fit, have adequate education, be between 21 and 40 years of age, and have a suitable personal record. While some of these requirements are fair, others may need further consideration. All the candidates have to see doctors that examine health condition and go through a psychological assessment. While physical health is relatively objective, the other part is open for discussions. Therefore, GCPD must elaborate improved psychology tests to reduce turnover and avoid being in constant need of new officers.
All the candidates must not have been convicted of or plead no contest to a felony. Additionally, they should not have any record of drug use of any kind. Modern society shifts to accepting that marijuana are legal, and many people have a recorded history of smoking cannabis. Therefore, the requirement of not having any records of drug use should not be as strict towards marijuana. While it would still be inappropriate for police officers to use drugs, the history of having tried cannabis should be acceptable if the candidates confirm that they do not smoke it now. A simple polygraph test will suffice as a confirmation of a person’s words. In short, the first step of addressing understaffing is modifying entrance criteria.
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Step 2: Improving the Image
It is generally believed that the central problem with police understaffing is the fact that it is no longer as prestigious as it once was. GCPD has the unique possibility to address this issue directly dealing with the future candidates, as it operates on a university campus. The department can improve its image by allowing students to apply for patrolling the streets together with officers in real-life situations.
This effort will help to create interpersonal relationships and let future candidates feel what it is like to work in the police. However, before accepting students for internships, the employees have to get through adequate training. The proposed program will also benefit the officers, as it will be a change in their routine.
Another trick will be to organize sports competitions between staff members and university students. This initiative will promote the image of people working in GCPD being a team. It will also let the students know that police officer are ordinary people with the same values and working in GCPD can be fun. As sports activities, such as football, baseball, and basketball matches attract many viewers, the message will be received by a large auditory. Additionally, the project may be beneficial for reducing turnover, as it offers the employees a chance to escape their daily activities and improves team spirit. In short, the measures of changing the department’s image have the potential to help attract new applicants and hold on to the experienced ones. Moreover, the matter does not require many resources to be implemented.
Step 3: Offering Benefits
In recent years, police employees have experienced a cut in benefits, including retirement bonuses, health insurance, and decreased wages. Even though the payment policies are dictated by the state government, GCPD can still find a way to offer unique benefits. For instance, as the department works on the University grounds and aims at attracting students as new officers, it can provide support in paying for further education.
People who are willing to join the police forces usually come from families with low or medium income. Therefore, additional help in paying for education is relevant to attract those graduates. However, this initiative requires further evaluation, as additional funding has to be drawn. In short, even though the measure described above seems appropriate, additional assessment is needed.
Police understaffing is a major concern for the local and federal government that requires immediate attention. The matter is usually connected to a cut in benefits, poor image, and strict requirements of becoming a police officer. To address the situation, GPD has to realize its strengths and weakness and make the three steps described in the present paper.