Jeremy M. Wilson, Associate Director for Research, Michigan State University School of Criminal Justice
NIJ Conference 2010
Jeremy M. Wilson: What we did was a national survey of police recruitment retention, and what we found is that some agencies have a very large proportion of officers in a third-year service cohort, so 20 to 30 years. Other agencies have a very large proportion of officers in the junior cohort, like zero to 10 years, and so this creates a number of management problems as these individuals progress through the system, as we think about training, getting field experience, supervision, the cost of providing patrol, for example. And so the implication here is that it's very important to kind of manage the profile so that the officers feel that they have a valuable career ahead of them while at the same time it meets the needs of the organization because our other models that we built as part of this project showed that often recruitment retention strategies have relatively little impact. And so it's even more important to manage these workforce profiles because the type of strategies that are available are often limited to kind of manage those structures. So the bottom line is agencies not only need to think about the number of officers they need but what their profiles look like; set goals for them and try to manage them proactively over time as opposed to responding to them in kind of a more crisis fashion.
A profile in this sense, it can be based on a number of dimensions — age, seniority, functional allocation, what have you. What we did in this is look at the seniority profiles, and what we see often is when agencies will have, like, a hiring boom or a hiring freeze, this creates sort of a pattern in the profile where there can be a large number or a small number of a certain type of officer in the department, like those that are more senior or more junior. And that works through the system over time and can make, for example, the cost of patrol significantly different from point A to point B depending on the seniority of the officers. It can also create challenges in terms of getting officers promoted, getting them trained. And then when there's, for example, a large number of officers that retire, it can create sort of a vacuum in the agency in terms of experience, and that can make the workforce structure start to oscillate. So as agencies have a large number of senior officers, they retire. There's a loss of experience, but then they're filled with a large number of junior officers so we see that start to oscillate over time, which makes it more important to kind of manage that process to make sure there's a healthy balance between the more junior and more senior officers.
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Jeremy Wilson, Associate Director for Research, Michigan State University School of Criminal Justice
Date created: August 18, 2010