By C. J. Oakes
In recent years, police recruiting, selection, and training has begun to develop along the same lines as farming.
Just as a farmer locates the best field of land, Police Departments are developing recruiting methods for the best cultivation of recruits possible. Like farmers selecting the finest seed, departments are developing guidelines for determining the most desireable qualities when selecting candidates. Like farmers cultivating their crops, law enforcement departments are improving criminal justice training so as to retain the best police officers. This article will consider the first of these three issues.
Recruit the Best Police Officers
In the case of recruiting, the most important factor in recent years has been to promote policing as a career instead of merely a job (Walker-Katz, 2008). Whereas this may seem a minor difference, in reality, it is not. A career is viewed as a profession that a person enters for life. As a job, a person tends to believe that if it does not “pan out” then something else will come along, but the career-minded person takes a far more serious approach to duties; the career-minded officer performs better.
When recruiting, Walker-Katz describes three elements necessary to the process. The three elements they describe are…
- the minimum qualifications of a candidate
- the recruitment effort itself, and
- the desire of the applicant considered
As for the minimum qualifications, an applicant must usually be between the ages of 21 and 35, although there are some exceptions to this. The recruit should be weight/height proportional and in reasonably good physical condition. The majority of departments require a high school diploma with about a third of all law enforcement agencies today seeking some college and a handful requiring a degree. A clean (no felonies) adult record is generally expected and about a quarter of the departments expect the officers to reside within the jurisdiction. The residency requirement, however, has been a matter of controversy in recent years (Walker-Katz, 2008).
Active Recruiting Yeilds a Better Crop of Cop
In the past, police departments did not actively recruit. Today, law enforcement agencies are finding that active recruiting brings the best applicants. However, there are issues that hinder such efforts, such as stereotyping and identification barriers.
Stereotyping often presents police officers in a manner that dissuades many qualified females from seeking positions and in many communities, especially African American, police are often viewed with hostility, as the enemy. This causes problems for the Black person seeking a career in the field of law enforcement because on gaining entry to the police force, he or she tends to become alienated from the community, a pariah; identification with the “enemy” makes the African American officer an automatic enemy among former friends and even family (Walker-Katz, 2008). This can be a serious matter, for identity is a powerful force in a community (Lewis, 2003).
Once the recruiting effort has born fruit, the selection process begins; this process can often take several months, depending on the needs and requirements of the department (Walker-Katz, 2008). The general method employed could best be described as “weeding out” and “selecting in” (Sanders, 2007, p. 130). This weeding out involves…
- criminal background checks
- drug tests
- examination of driving records
- psychological exams
- physical tests, such as agility
- polygraphs, and
- medical exams.
After all clearly undesireable candidates have been eliminated, the department will then seek the best police candidates by conducting selection tests and interviews. Eventually, the department has ideally found the best possible recruit for the department. By following such guidelines, departments nationwide are hoping to grow the finest crop of police possible.
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- Lewis, H. (2003). A Question of Values: Six Ways We Make the Personal Choices That Shape Our Lives (3rd ed.). Mount Jackson, VA: Axios Press.
- Sanders, B. (2008). Using personality traits to predict officer performance. Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies and Management, 31(1), 129-147.
- Walker-Katz, . (2008). The Police in America: An Introduction (6th ed.). : McGraw Hill.