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  • Mark DuPont and Dr. Charles Scheer

INTEREST IN POLICE PATROL CAREERS - An Assessment of Potential Candidates’ Impressions of the Police

Following an NMLEA webinar done with Dr. Charles Scheer from the University of Southern Mississippi, "The Future of Law Enforcement - What You Need to Know," the Technical Report that he referenced and the survey results are now available for download and review. You can find a copy of the report by clicking here.

The Preface of the report is here, and explains the motivation for the survey, and the results it revealed.

In the spring of 2017, Chief Leonard Papania of the Gulfport (MS) Police Department and I began a conversation regarding the persistence of a crisis in the recruitment of police personnel, addressing the difficulty police agencies of varying size and jurisdictional character were having in generating basic interest in police careers. The well-publicized “cop crunch”, as discussed in previous police literature, was not going away despite the apparent economic recovery from the 2008 recession and its aftermath. Why, we wondered, despite the robust and increasing numbers of entry-level positions in police patrol, was the career of police patrol work such a “hard sell” with the current potential applicant pool? Also, why were some of those very individuals seemingly interested in specialized police work (e.g., detective or investigator, K9 officer, narcotics officer) but averse to patrol officer positions? Were these potential applicants fearful of the selection process (i.e., invasive background investigations and social media oversight)? Were these people deterred from police patrol careers because of the perception that the initial training expectations were too rigorous (i.e., academy physical training and the challenge of attending a lengthy academy)? Another consideration which grew out of this conversation was the potential inability or failure of police agencies to possibly address basic recruit expectations, namely assistance with the application process, realistic job preview, and mentoring. We considered the oneway police application process that had existed for decades, of agencies which recruited by providing application information, and the lack of potential applicants who were interested enough in the career to walk through the proverbial open door. Now that the door was flung wide open, and the applicants were few, what was the source of the continuing challenge? Was it “fear points” on the part of candidates, or the reluctance of police recruiters to embrace the recruiting process which was now reversed, that of candidates recruiting the agency, not the way it had been for generations?

Our interest in resolving this dilemma led to a basic research agenda and project idea. Chief Papania had been a guest lecturer at The University of Southern Mississippi (of which he is an alumnus) for several years, and he proposed a series of roundtable discussions allowing college students (representing a sample of potential candidates) to share their opinions and impressions of police careers, the recruitment, selection, and training processes, and what their potential “fear points” were regarding a patrol career. I began to itemize a list of these possible “fear points” through consultation with not only existing college students but also recent graduates and then-current patrol officers and academy cadets. A survey instrument which focused on numerous potential barriers to police patrol career interest was developed, grouped by venue (the recruitment and selection processes, the training academy) and by group of interest (pressure from family and friends, community and peer expectations, and more global impressions of one’s role within the contemporary police population). I asked Dr. Michael Rossler of Illinois State University to assist me with the project because of his interest in police organizational management. In the fall of 2017 we distributed the survey to five undergraduate institutions in their criminal justice courses, in order to capture not only potential criminal justice majors but also students who may have a passing interest in police careers. In the spring of 2018 we began to analyze the data, which serves as the basis for many of the discussions, conclusions, and suggestions for police recruitment strategy here.

We hope that this report and its findings will illuminate previously-misunderstood features of the police recruitment process, especially in an era when police practitioners are continually challenged to adapt to the existing pool of career applicants in crafting police officers of future generations.

Dr. Charlie ScheerThe University of Southern Mississippi

To discuss how the Academy, and Dr. Scheer's team can assist you in assessing your current agency's recruiting, retention and training practices, and how they be enhanced to meet the needs of your organization, contact us at

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