I just came across some stats that are concerning. Police departments nationwide are struggling with staff shortages due to the economy, reduced budgets, cutbacks in benefits, and layoffs.
According to Police Chief Magazine, “Such difficulties spurred 7,272 applications to the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Hiring Program, requesting $8.3 billion to support more than 39,000 sworn-officer positions. Altogether, both the supply of and demand for qualified officers are changing in a time of increasing attrition, expanding law enforcement responsibilities, and decreasing resources.”
The fact is, since the late 1990s, our country has seen a reduction in the amount of people interested in becoming police officers. It’s been estimated that 80 percent of the nation’s law enforcement agencies had positions they could not fill. Wow.
As Baby Boomer officers look forward to retiring, the differences between them and Generations X & Y are surfacing. Veteran SWAT team officers often report that too many recruits see SWAT as a “steppingstone” or a “resume builder” for other positions, rather than a place to master a skill and have a career. So finding SWAT members for the long-term is challenging. In fact, here are the trends police recruiters are finding in young candidates:
- They only plan to stay for a while. This is a steppingstone.
- Some bring a parent with them to the job interview.
- They got their ideas for police work from television and are not ready to endure the rigorous, unglamorous tasks police work requires.
- Many are unready, having only been prepped in a college classroom instead of any real-world experience.
Captain Ed Allen, NTOA Eastern Region Director and Instructor, said, “Instead of having twenty people staying twenty years, you have people stay there five to seven years and move on.” This, of course, makes the work difficult.
Two years ago, Condoleezza Rice and Joel Klein released the results of a study on American Youth. It was sobering. They said that the state of American teens today has become a matter of national security. 75% of youth today are not even qualified for the military due to obesity, failure to graduate, or criminal records.
My initial response is obvious:
- Many of our young adults need to prepare for their careers within the context of real world conditions, not a college classroom. Higher Ed is not for everyone. Some will need experiences that toughen them physically.
- We will need to create environments that prepare teens for long-term commitments. Some things can’t be achieved in short increments. We must help them see the big picture and prep for the long haul.
- We must enable young adults to move from the virtual world to the real world. I know this sounds pithy, but much of their worldview has been derived from YouTube, reality television, and video games.
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