Justice Department issues report to improve police hiring nationwide

Sworn officers hired in 2022 surged by 35 percent compared to 2020 and by 5.6 percent over 2019.
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By Stacy M. Brown
NNPA Newswire Senior
National Correspondent

While law enforcement faces a challenge as more officers resign or retire, and fewer qualified applicants are interested in becoming police officers, a new report from the Justice Department suggests that police agencies should reevaluate their mission, values, culture, and employees to improve their service to communities.

In the report titled “Recruitment and Retention for Modern Law Enforcement Agency,” DOJ officials concluded that the law enforcement profession needs to update its hiring and retention practices.

Officials say that law enforcement agencies can enhance the appeal of policing as a career by implementing the solutions and strategies presented in this publication. They can also attract candidates, train recruits, show appreciation to employees, prioritize workforce well-being, and build community trust.

“The U.S. Department of Justice, through BJA and the COPS Office, is dedicated to assisting law enforcement agencies in navigating the recruitment and retention crisis and providing support for incorporating these solutions,” DOJ officials stated.

A dwindling number of sworn officers is a persistent issue that police departments all over the country are facing, according to a study by the Police Executive Research Forum in April 2023. A study found that the number of staff in law enforcement agencies in January 2023 was 4.8 percent lower than three years ago.

The study highlighted that the issue extends beyond recruitment hurdles; it encompasses the retention of existing officers. In 2022, the number of sworn officers hired surged by 35 percent compared to 2020 and by 5.6 percent over 2019. Officer resignations in 2022 increased by 47 percent compared to 2019, according to the police research study.

The report highlights the alarming decline in law enforcement staffing levels.

“The recruitment and retention crisis is the number one issue I hear about from our state, tribal and local law enforcement partners across the country,” Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta stated.

The report says that there are many reasons for staffing problems. These include the lasting effects of COVID-19, changes in the job market, increased safety concerns, and growing frustration towards the police.

The report, which Attorney General Merrick Garland commissioned, calls for a multifaceted strategy in response to these difficulties. It emphasizes the need for police leaders to gain a deeper understanding of their communities while advocating for the modernization and streamlining of hiring practices.

The report emphasized a significant discovery from a meeting of police leaders in April 2023: that negative public opinion significantly affects officers’ morale and job satisfaction. Enhancing law enforcement’s image and highlighting the profession’s virtues are critical to boosting recruitment.

The DOJ report emphasizes the importance of emotional intelligence and non-traditional skills, like conflict resolution and empathy, for effective policing. It states, “Strong emotional intelligence is linked to fewer cases of excessive force and improved relationships within the community.”

Officials emphasized the importance of recruiting candidates with traditional policing knowledge and critical interpersonal skills.

Further, agencies have been advised to implement diversity initiatives and remove barriers hindering inclusivity to build a more inclusive workforce. The DOJ recommended working with community leaders to encourage diverse candidates to consider law enforcement as a career.

The report offers recommendations for improving training and retention once officers are recruited. These include signing bonuses, comprehensive pension plans, and various retirement options. Additionally, addressing limitations on overtime and pension payouts could significantly improve retention rates.

Concerns over work-life balance and wellness, particularly concerning child care and mental health, were also highlighted in the report. The stigma of seeking mental health support within the law enforcement community is a big problem that needs fixing, officials said.

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