Recruiting and Retaining America's Finest

Evidence-Based Lessons for Police Workforce Planning

by Jeremy M. Wilson, Bernard Rostker, Cha-Chi Fan

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Personnel management is a critical but oft neglected function of police organizations. While much attention is given to recruiting and retention, these are only tools for accomplishing a larger goal: achieving and maintaining the profile of officers by experience and rank that satisfies agency needs and officer career aspirations. Police agencies often have little ability to assess their organization and environment, and they receive little guidance on how best to build and maintain their workforces. In this monograph, the authors seek to fill the gap of information available to police agencies through a survey on their recruitment and retention practices. The survey, sent to every U.S. police agency with at least 300 sworn officers, sought to document such characteristics as authorized and actual strength by rank, officer work and qualifications, compensation, and recruiting efforts. The authors used these data to provide an overview of current recruitment and retention practices, to describe how they affected police recruitment and personnel profiles, and to identify future research needs. Findings include that police compensation, city size, and crime rates had statistically significant effects on police recruiting. Advertising and recruiting incentives had little effect on the number of recruits. Cohort sizes and structures highlighted current and future personnel management challenges. To facilitate comparative and longitudinal analyses of police staffing, the authors recommend ongoing national data collection.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    The Personnel Situation

  • Chapter Three

    Factors Affecting the Supply of Police Recruits

  • Chapter Four

    Career Management

  • Chapter Five

    Evidence-Based Lessons for Personnel Planning

  • Appendix A

    Police Recruitment and Retention Survey Procedures

  • Appendix B

    Survey Instrument

This project was supported by grant awarded by the National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations contained herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the U.S. Department of Justice. This research was conducted under the auspices of the RAND Center on Quality Policing within the Safety and Justice Program of RAND Infrastructure, Safety, and Environment (ISE).

This report is part of the RAND Corporation monograph series. RAND monographs present major research findings that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND monographs undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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