Hiring for a police department is unlike the process in any other field. The ideal officer will combine peak physical and mental toughness with great communication skills, a willingness to put oneself in danger and an ability to deescalate intense situations. The complex nature of the work means that extra effort given to recruiting, nurturing and retaining talent is well worth it. The pool of applicants with the skills to become great officers is limited, and departments have to hold onto their best people tenaciously.
The Cadet System
Speaking with the International City/County Management Association, Center for Public Safety Management co-founder Leonard Matarese explained that he supports a system in which college-age applicants join departments first as cadets while they are still in school. Cadets perform nonviolent police work alongside experienced officers and learn the tricks of the trade.
"Creating a cadet system means gaining reliable information on new recruits."
Matarese noted that there are very few good ways to predict future performance of a police officer. If candidates haven't been in this line of work before, it could be hard to detect whether they're ready to succeed. Creating a cadet system means gaining reliable information on how the new recruits actually fare at performing the day-to-day duties of an officer.
When it comes to what metrics to hire on, Matarese suggested that the best traits to look for may be attitude-based. If individuals are ready to join a department because they feel a duty to the community and want to serve the public, they're better positioned to succeed than recruits who are looking for excitement or action.
Departments Using Cadets
The St. Louis Post Dispatch recently explained that the St. Louis County Police Department is using a cadet program to keep the interest of local 18- to-21-year-old candidates who are too young to join the force, but are interested. The years between leaving high school and becoming eligible to become full officers are a period when interest could wane and candidates could be taken by other occupations. The cadets are coming in at a time when hiring and retaining officers is a challenge, providing an extra pipeline for hiring.
Tracking Workforce Personnel
When it comes to managing and tracking cadet programs, public safety workforce management software offers valuable aid to agencies. Tracking training, performance or certification data using manual paper processes or spreadsheets is time consuming and can lead to information loss. Data retention is especially important when departments are tracking individuals throughout the years, for instance using cadet performance to predict how they'll function as full-fledged officers. Having this type of centralized software improves efficiencies throughout the 'cadet to rookie to vetern officer' lifecycle.