This article is written for all the brave men and women that serve, who can’t find their voice to express what is truly important to them. If you are anything like me you became a public servant, because you wanted to help people and have a meaningful job with purpose to make the world a better place. We are not alone; in fact, the majority of people value meaningful work over the amount of their paycheck. This can be seen in the Harvard Business Review article by Shawn Achor, Andrew Reece, Gabriella Rosen Kellerman, and Alexi Robichaux. https://hbr.org/2018/11/9-out-of-10-people-are-willing-to-earn-less-money-to-do-more-meaningful-work
Most agencies that I speak with cite monetary issues as to why they can’t recruit, hire or retain the number of officers they desire. I have also read countless articles where agencies are stating they can’t hire quality officers, because of their entry level pay. They compare applicant numbers to other jurisdictions and the starting pay of the officers working for that jurisdiction. The metric they are measuring with is not only wrong but backwards. They need to speak with officers working at the jurisdiction to understand how and why they work there, and more importantly how they value their job.
Yes, it is true a lot of these agencies do have a higher starting salary, but this isn’t the main reason they have higher applicant numbers, retain more officers, and most importantly they have the least number of officers leaving the profession. So why do people what to work for these particular agencies? It is simple, the community they serve, supports and appreciates them, the community values the work they are doing and in return votes in favor of tax initiatives that supports their work. In these communities the profession is still one that is respected and valued, which makes more people to want to do the profession.
Many of these successful agencies don’t even have lateral programs, that so many unsuccessful agencies deploy to bring personnel in with. These agencies don’t focus on the size of their people’s paycheck, they focus on adding value to their personnel’s life. This creates a positive work environment where people are excited about coming to work. People go the extra mile because they are passionate about what they do, not because of their paycheck.
We all have days when we question why we are subjecting ourselves to such a demoralizing profession, until we have call where we know without a doubt that we had a direct impact on improving someone’s life. For me, nothing compares to when you are able to assist someone in improving their lives. No amount of money can replace the job satisfaction on those days. A staggering 90% of the people I arrested thanked me. When they did, I would state, “You are welcome, I pride myself in my customer service.” Almost always they would begin laugh, until they realized I was serious. Statutorily, in Colorado like many other states law enforcement’s title is Peace Officer. I took this title seriously and continuously beyond the call of duty to serve my community. The gratitude I received from the people I served was a constant reminder that my job was important.
Police Chiefs, Sheriffs, City Managers if your applicant numbers are down, or if you can’t retain officers first look at your approval rating from your jurisdictions. Think of ways to improve the meaningfulness of the job and not focus on the efficiency of the job. Don’t put focus on your policy and training to limit liability for your agency, focus on improving your people and in turn your liability will naturally decrease. Ask your communities how you can improve? Ask how they view your agency and implement procedures to further those goals that better the community. When you get the majority of your community behind your agency, you will be able to utilize revenue that you are currently wasting on overtime and the revolving door on new hires.
Humane Policing specializes in improving the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve.
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, “What are you doing for others?”-Martin Luther King Jr.
Darron Spencer is the award-winning author of Humane Policing: How Perspectives Can Influence Our Performance and founder of Humane Policing. For more information, visit www.humanepolicing.com