The Recruiting Crisis Myth

Dr. Travis Yates Retired As A Commander With A Large Municipal Police Department After 30 Years Of Service. He Is The Author Of “The Courageous Police Leader: A Survival Guide For Combating Cowards, Chaos & Lies.” His Risk Management And Leadership Seminars Have Been Taught To Thousands Of Professionals Across The World. He Is A Graduate Of The FBI National Academy With A Doctorate Degree In Strategic Leadership And The CEO Of The Courageous Police Leadership Alliance.
Myths vs Facts road sign

If you google “law enforcement recruiting crisis” you will get page after page on the topic. From police unions to chiefs to major media outlets, this so called crisis has been raging for years but is it really a crisis?

I’m not downplaying the recruiting issue because it is real but when we call it a crisis, we are creating a recipe for failure and a built-in excuse to not turn the issue around. 

The evidence that we are not in the middle of a crisis is that not every agency is having an issue. Plenty of law enforcement organizations are fully staffed and others are well on their way to it.

Problem vs. Crisis

A more appropriate term would be a problem. A problem has solutions and there isn’t a better profession poised to fix problems than law enforcement.

  • It’s What We Do.

The first step in fixing any problem is figuring out the cause. Cause and effect are real and if we misdiagnose the cause, no amount of solutions will work. According to that google search, the cause has been everyone but law enforcement. Whether it’s the media, anti-police rhetoric or politicians, there is no shortage of blame but how will the problem be fixed if we don’t control the cause?

  • What if WE are the Cause?

That probably got your attention but the fact that many agencies aren’t having the problem could be a clue.

Law Enforcement Recruiting Techniques

I don’t blame law enforcement leaders for not knowing or understanding actual recruiting because frankly, we’ve never had to actually do it. Many agencies had “recruiters” for years, but the truth is that the applications came in whether we put on a uniform and went to a job fair or not. 

But what happens when those 100,000 COPS officers from the mid-90’s retire, a bunch more get pissed in 2020 and leave and a new generation enters the workforce?

  • It’s Time to Actually Recruit.

We will never go back to a time where the applications just come in and that is not just about law enforcement. Every profession is dealing with a shortage, and they are having to recruit in a different way for a different generation.

More Than Effort

I applaud the profession for the effort and resources spent on recruiting in recent years but in data released by the IACP, we see both the problem and the cause.

The Recruiting Crisis Myth

When 75% of the agencies are seeking outside help for recruiting and 65% still have fewer candidates, the cause should be smacking us right in the face.

Recruiting Websites, Video, & SEO

Millions of dollars have been given to marketing companies in recent years to build great websites and recruiting videos. Some have even forked over a ton of money to drive traffic to the website, but this is not how recruiting is done. The private industry doesn’t do it and we don’t even do it when we hire police chiefs.

  • We Hire Recruiting Firms.


Rather than put a website and fancy video up and HOPE a candidate finds it, recruiting companies go find candidates and for law enforcement, that means finding them where they are…social media. 

Sure, marketing companies (that often call themselves police recruiting companies) say they are going to do it but marketing methods, designed to sell products, will never work for recruiting. 

Just last week I spoke to an agency that hired a marketing company masquerading as police recruiters. The fancy video and website got them one applicant over a three-year period. 

I get it. We don’t ’believe the website and video is the cause because WE like it but that has very little to do with recruiting…we already have a job.

Wolves Among Us

Three grey wolves

It’s easy to determine whether you are talking to a marketing company or recruiting company. Simply ask them what it will cost to staff up your agency. A recruiting company will tell you while a marketing company will show you nice looking websites and videos and talk about lead generation, etc.

Techniques, Processes, & Software

Recruiting is a high-level skill and it’s never as easy as a website and a video. Recruiting is about implementing processes, incorporating techniques, and leveraging technology to find qualified candidates. It’s much cheaper than marketing, which is why the wolves continue to circle.

SAFEGUARD Recruiting

I have been all in with SAFEGUARD Recruiting since my friend, Doug Larsen, launched the company. Doug, a retired law enforcement officer, had huge success when he started recruiting in other industries and he brought those techniques and experts over to law enforcement. 

SAFEGUARD has done so many campaigns for law enforcement and with the associated data, he can quote exactly what it will cost to staff up an agency. In the next article, I’ll discuss some of those metrics along with the success stories across the country.

I am excited that there is a solution for a problem that the profession has been slow to correct. The wolves haven’t helped and sometimes the “way we’ve always done it” attitude hasn’t helped but many are catching on and the headlines screaming crisis are going to slowly go away. 

In the meantime, check out our free recruiting training that will help you understand this issue at a much deeper level. If we can help in any way, fill out the form below.

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