This blog is part of a series highlighting contributions the Hillard Heintze team made to Law Enforcement Best Practices: Lessons Learned from the Field, a guide to modern policing released in 2019 by the U.S. Department of Justice COPS Office. In the guide and this blog series, our law enforcement experts break down their key insights surrounding eight critical topics: community policing, de-escalation, crisis intervention, first-line supervisors, early intervention systems, internal affairs, recruitment and data systems.

Among the trends confronting law enforcement agencies in 2020, agencies across the United States are having trouble with officer retention. While many factors drive this trend, how agencies treat their employees is a critical one.

How Law Enforcement Employees Feel Matters in Officer Retention

Employees expect to be appreciated, respected and well treated in their workplace. While working with the Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Police Services (COPS Office) to develop the Law Enforcement Best Practices: Lessons Learned from the Field manual, we found that “Satisfied employees perform their jobs well and are more likely to feel committed to the organization and to express lower turn-over intent relative to their less-satisfied colleagues.” Conversely, when management treats employees disrespectfully, employees are more likely to disrespect coworkers and members of the public.

In a Harvard Business Review article, “A Better Way to Develop and Retain Top Talent,” Margaret Rogers suggests that employers retain employees by “creating more effective training and development programs.” Additionally, she asserts that, though formal training is necessary, “the most impactful development happens not through formal programs, but smaller moments that occur in the workplace.” She also suggests that employers can personalize employee development by:

  • Understanding how to provide ideal learning and development opportunities for employees
  • Creating on-the-job training opportunities, such as small learning moments in the field
  • Providing regular employee feedback, including what they are doing well and opportunities for improvement

Modeling Behaviors and Adopting Best Practices

Practicing procedural justice in the workplace also helps foster a positive work environment. When police chiefs and sheriffs simply treat their employees with respect, consider their opinions and fairly handle disciplinary matters, they help model and establish a respectful tone that spreads throughout the office and provides the foundation for a more harmonious work environment.

The manual Law Enforcement Best Practices: Lessons Learned from the Field also identifies steps law enforcement agencies can take to improve employee retention – such as:

  • Create career development strategies
  • Offer educational incentive pay
  • Increase training opportunities
  • Seek employee feedback
  • Implement tuition reimbursement programs
  • Review, re-evaluate and adjust family-friendly policies
  • Implement a mentoring program for new employees
  • Assess promotion opportunities
  • Examine the distribution of assignments, awards and recognitions

Check out the Manual

The Law Enforcement Best Practices manual has in-depth coverage of employee recruitment, hiring and retention, as well as seven other law enforcement topics. We encourage you to review the manual and reach out to us for help implementing the recommendations.