For a sheriff, one of our contemporary challenges is to maintain a complement of deputies, correctional officers, dispatchers and civilian personnel to meet the mission.
I can’t remember the last time we did labor allocations with deputy ministers. The supply and demand for qualified officers evolves in times of attrition, policing responsibilities and declining interest in law enforcement.
The result is a decrease in resources. The two constant “R” words these days with sheriffs and police chiefs are recruitment and retention.
For many, having a law enforcement agency that represents their community’s demographics is a challenge given the hurdles and — frankly — the dysfunctionality of the state’s civil service agency. The agency is outdated in many ways in terms of operation and response – for example, civil service exams take 3-5 months to get results from eligibility lists for hiring considerations.
Out-of-state law enforcement agencies continually advertise and recruit labor in New York City, offering faster testing and training with competitive salaries.
Recruitment and retention challenges can vary from agency to agency, as all have unique, local issues that a police administrator may face. These include community policing and in particular compliance with the previous Governor’s Executive Order 203, which required municipalities with police departments to submit plans with standards for professional policing.
For accredited agencies, adopting a plan was not as difficult.
The other state issue affecting recruitment and retention is the Tier 6 Retirement Act. It is costly for new members and unfortunately falls behind plans offered by private industry.
The problem is compounded by the wide range of differences in municipal collective agreements. Uncompetitive salaries lead many young officers to seek better opportunities in their areas (Finger Lakes or neighboring Monroe County) for higher salaries, better benefits, improved health plans at lower cost and bonuses. longevity and retention.
When an officer leaves, it is called a “turnover”. This may affect recruiting, especially with signing bonuses of up to $7,000 now being offered by some municipalities.
When officer salaries are not at the same level as other municipalities, turnover and vacancies become commonplace. Continually trying to catch up sounds like the words attributed to Albert Einstein – “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.”
My best assets are the well-trained men and women who perform this law enforcement work 24/7/365. ROI, or return on investment, is a term that municipalities and elected officials need to focus on, especially with the retention of trained and experienced officers.
A municipality can easily have an investment of $200,000 to $300,000 for the first three years of an officer’s employment. We rarely look at turnover costs, perhaps because these costs are rarely identified by a line item in a department’s budget.
Successful policing depends on the officer’s experience, training, agency policy, and ability to make sound decisions with little oversight from a supervisor. Turnover in an agency weakens service delivery to citizens.
When a trained cop can pull off a $10,000 to $15,000 pay raise in a nearby county or nearby police department, the lure is understandable. This is where law enforcement agencies and their municipalities have created a competition for interested police and peace officer candidates.
Signing bonuses are becoming commonplace in public and private entities. Moving expenses, health club memberships, and other programs such as safety equipment, flexible work hours, or take-out cars are attractive to applicants.
We have always required 60 college credits or military time as a prerequisite. With a dwindling pool of qualified applicants, law enforcement agencies are now considering reverting to requiring only a high school diploma. It is also problematic when salaries and benefits in a police service are lower than in other professional occupations where the pay and hours are better and the risk factor is not present.
In New York State, Section 72-c of the General Municipal Law requires an officer to reimburse the agency that paid for their basic police training if they move to another agency within the first three years. . There are no refunds after this.
Most don’t realize that it takes several weeks to prepare a new officer for hire, and then they have to attend the basic police academy, regardless of their background. This takes several months, then the new recruit must undergo on-the-job training which can last from 8 to 12 weeks, or even more.
So, between being hired and being an asset in their community, it can take 40 weeks or more. Granted, there aren’t many jobs where you aren’t a resource until nine months after hire.
Studies have shown that if an agent will leave a service, it is usually in the first five years and at 25-30 years.
Chiefs and sheriffs consider salary and benefits to be the main element of compensation affecting turnover. Pay equity is a burning issue and more tangible than poor management and lack of appreciation.
When a neighboring municipality steps in to address recruitment and retention, it begins to attract lateral transfer requests from already trained officers. At the regional level, the “domino effect” occurs by attracting the side.
The agency losing the agent to a lateral transfer then starts the hiring and training process all over again. The agency that hires the side does not have the cost of several months of training.
The municipality that lost the agent has zero return on investment for taxpayers because the cycle of hiring and training begins again. Meanwhile, with an understaffed agency, other members have to work overtime, affecting the city budget and threatening workplace well-being.
Paying agents fairly shows that they are appreciated, and a pay increase can also be effective, especially if it comes at the right time. The longevity allowance, most likely combined with other benefits to meet individual needs, could reduce turnover.
The longevity allowance can stimulate the retention of long-term, highly qualified and experienced staff. These agents can be very effective and efficient. While there are direct costs to such compensation, their benefits likely outweigh the costs of turnover.
Similarly, a retention bonus is used effectively by many police departments and private employers. These bonuses have resulted in low turnover rates and an abundance of candidates for the agency offering such hiring opportunities.
Never before has the recruitment and retention of police personnel been as critical or as difficult as it is today. Sheriffs and chiefs know that retention is key to effective and efficient police officer performance, as experience and training are essential to mentoring new officers into quality professional policing.
To successfully address these challenges, law enforcement and municipal officials must look at the process in an entirely different way. This process will require constant review of the labor market, compensation systems, leadership, recruitment techniques, operational management systems, changes in the civil service and retention systems.
Law enforcement officials are increasingly advocating for changes in the approach to “R” words with their municipal officials. This sheriff hopes they’ll listen, because our public safety mission is so important. When agents feel they are valued, we will have improved retention and recruiting interests.
Ron Spike has served as Yates County Sheriff since 1992.