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Hendon Publishing

Recruiting Techniques for Female Officers, Part 4

In today’s increasingly competitive labor market, agencies must create and maintain a proactive approach to recruit all candidates. This is especially true for female officers. 

Potential candidates can sense when the agency values and respects them as individuals. Due to this, it is critical everyone in the entire organization having contact with a candidate, from the front desk receptionist to the chief executive, treat them as a future co-worker. Organizations must develop a culture in which candidates are seen as an investment in the department’s future, not an expense or a troublesome burden.

The best foundation for a strong female officer recruiting program is to demonstrate the department has a strong representation of female officers. While this may sound like the proverbial ‘chicken or the egg’ riddle, having female officers represented throughout the department sends a powerful message women are welcome and can succeed in the organization.

Agencies can no longer rely on one approach to recruit potential officers but must engage a variety of techniques. Most of these are generally accepted processes for all positions but can be tailored to female candidates. The recruiting program should focus on sending a message representative of a career with the department and is enticing to female candidates, particularly millennials. 

Some of the consistent themes most employees are seeking include work that makes a difference, service to the community, comradery with co-workers, supportive work environment, diverse job activities, autonomy, and job security.

When choosing recruiting messages, it is important they are an accurate reflection of what it is like to work in the department. The message must be consistent across each recruiting strategy.  Some suggest candidates must see the advertising ‘tag line’ at least six times across different mediums before they start to identify it with the department.


Recruiting Strategies

To cost effectively manage a strong recruiting program, the department must engage a low effort/high return approach. This requires the department to use those approaches that do not require enormous effort, but are likely to provide great results. In addition, the department must identify, train, and deploy individuals who will serve as recruiters. In a small department, this may be one person serving in the capacity on a part-time basis. Larger organizations will require a team of officers along with support personnel.

Individuals selected as recruiters must be among the best officers of the department and representative of the diversity the agency is seeking to accomplish. These individuals are the critical component for attracting those individuals who will be the future of the department. To successfully accomplish this, each must be trained in a variety of areas including legal requirements, the department’s strategic plan, how to interact with potential candidates, compensation and benefit programs, and building relations throughout the community.


Employee Referral Systems

The most effective recruiting strategy continues to be an employee referral program. This approach makes every officer in the department a potential recruiter. Research shows incumbent officers know what is required to successfully perform within the agency. Because of this, officers are likely to perform some ‘informal’ assessment before recommending a candidate.  Those individuals referred by an incumbent officer are more likely to be selected, complete training, and stay with the department.

An effective employee referral program should include a policy outlining the processes for recommending potential employees. In addition, officers who recruit an individual who is eventually selected are typically provided some type of benefit. A number of options are available for rewards such as administrative days off or financial bonuses. Many agencies offer one part of the reward when the candidate joins the department and the second half when they complete their training. This encourages the sponsoring officer to continue supporting and help to anchor them with the department.

It should be noted officers tend to recruit persons who are like themselves. Because of this, departments that do not have a diverse organization should refrain from using this strategy.



The Internet enables interested persons to access information about the department 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  Departments must maintain a strong social media presence including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and a recruiting blog. In addition, most interested candidates will view the department’s website prior to inquiring about opportunities or submitting an application. A Career Opportunities page should be prominently posted and allow individuals access within three clicks.

In addition, departments should consider creating a special webpage for women that sends a strong message the department is seeking female candidates, outlines benefits of a career in law enforcement, and outlines the steps to successfully complete the selection process. This page should illustrate female officers serving in different positions within the department. In addition, the best sites include video testimonials from incumbents.


Current Employees

Another viable pool of candidates is women serving in civilian or non-sworn positions. For example, dispatchers, detention officers, crime scene technicians, and other support positions may transition well into sworn positions. This approach also provides increased career development opportunities for these individuals.


Colleges and Universities

Recruiters should reach out to build a relationship with two-year and four-year colleges and universities. In addition to the career center, contacting criminal justice programs, as well as other programs such as sociology, social work, political science, psychology, and physical education, may yield quality candidates who may not have otherwise considered law enforcement as a viable alternative. Many of these programs offer the opportunity to speak with students or serve as a guest instructor.


High Potential Sources

The best locations to advertise for potential candidates are locations where women who may be interested in a ‘non-traditional career’ are likely to frequent or visit. These include female sporting events, athletic programs, and facilities serving females, firing ranges, and martial arts studios. Agencies taking an analytical approach to identifying sources for potential candidates survey candidates and newly hired employees of various locations they visit on a regular basis. Using this information, a strategy is developed to target those areas identified as most frequently visited.


Media Coverage

Along with traditional advertising with radio, television, and newspapers, law enforcement agencies often have good relations with the news departments covering their service area. Human interest stories provide free, in-depth discussion of career opportunities for women with the department. Similarly, radio and television stations offer community interest programs that provide an opportunity for female officers to discuss the rewards of working with the department.


Community Programs

Agencies have a number of events in which officers are highly visible. It is extremely important female officers are visible and placed in critical roles at these events. For example, department Honor Guard, Public Information Officers, and Community Outreach meetings illustrate how women are changing the face of law enforcement and engaging with the community in a positive manner.


Long-Term Approaches

The department should also begin investing in long-term recruiting processes focused on girls in middle school and high school. Some of these programs include summer day camps that demonstrate crime scene technology and other areas that may peak their interest. In addition, apprentice programs such as Explorers, Teen Police Academies, and cadet programs demonstrate law enforcement is a viable career opportunity for women and anchor them to the department.


Streamline the Selection Process

Having the best recruiting program in the world is meaningless if the candidates cannot get hired in an efficient manner. The best candidates always have a number of employers seeking to attract them. Because of this, departments can no longer afford to utilize slow, bureaucratic processes that provide little feedback to the individual. Agencies using this approach are viewed as lethargic, stifling organizations that view employees as a number and are uninterested in them or the skills they offer. It is critical agencies have frequent contact with each candidate as they move through the selection process. This begins with a representative reaching out to the individual within 24 hours of them making contact with the department or submitting an application. 

It is highly recommended departments triage high-caliber candidates and place them at the head of the line. As part of this process, the selection procedures should be streamlined to ensure candidates can complete critical components in one day.

In closing, females are the most under-represented protected class in law enforcement agencies today. Research clearly indicates properly selected candidates are more likely to be better educated, less likely to use force, less likely to be sued, or receive complaints from the public.  The agency must develop an environment that is respectful and fair for all employees. With this foundation in place, the agency can develop a strategic plan that focuses on identifying and attracting women to fill existing vacancies and build the department of the future.


Dwayne Orrick has more than 30 years law enforcement experience.  This includes chief of police in a medium-size city and the rank of major in one of the nation's largest sheriff's departments. He can be contacted at dorrick@bellsouth.

Published in Law and Order, Jul 2016

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