The Future of Work in Law Enforcement

Photo by Bruno Martins on Unsplash

The landscape of law enforcement is shifting on multiple fronts. Across the country, protests in the past year have placed increasing pressure on police departments to root out the “bad apples” and implement systemic changes both in the hiring process and on-the-ground policing techniques. Additionally, unbeknownst to most, law enforcement has been slowly facing a hiring crisis due to a wealth of underlying factors. As the labor market shifts away from traditional hiring incentives and recruiting methods fail to keep up with the vacancies, police departments across the country are reckoning with a dramatic drop in the application pool--some as large as 70%. On top of that, as policing techniques become more advanced and require more specialization, screening failure rates during the hiring process can reach the 98th percentile. 

This begs the question: what does the future of policing look like in an age of advanced policing techniques and tremendous public pressure to change from within?

The future of work is behavioral 

Historically, hiring techniques for law enforcement have focused on sourcing candidates that have a propensity for honing the hard skills of the field: physical fitness, problem-solving, sound judgment, emergency responsiveness, etc. However, as agencies mount efforts to recognize and repair strained relationships with the public, it has become clear that a system built on satisfying material job performance is longer satisfactory. 

Recent years have seen a rise in demand for training programs that include sensitivity training, de-escalation techniques, and cultural awareness. Some cities have begun placing an emphasis on soft skills such as emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills. This demonstrates a considerable shift in emphasis from performance to behavior. A candidate may present an aptitude for checking off a list of highly-skilled duties, but how are they performing them? 

As a significant generation of police officers hired in the 1990s ages out of the workforce, agencies have the monumental task of replacing them with ever-heightening stakes of precision and excellence. However, with that task also comes tremendous opportunity. In a critical moment where policing techniques are evolving in real time, agencies are developing plans to train this imminent new generation of officers. To do so, they are looking more closely at who these new officers are, and how they will meet the needs of a shifting landscape. 

Police departments can no longer afford to hire officers that will further exacerbate deteriorated trust between law enforcement and the public. The demands of modern policing require just as much behavioral integrity as performance ethic. The trouble is, from a hiring perspective, how can agencies ensure the consistency of a candidate’s character?

Screening can help navigate change

One of the clearest metrics of a candidate’s character is their behavior, and behavior is best measured through a track record. Personal and professional references may not give the clearest picture of a candidate, and everyday behavior doesn’t show up on a criminal background check. Another solution is needed. Fortunately, social media screening has emerged as a viable supplement to hiring practices interested in more closely honing in on a candidate’s character. As more and more of public life moves into the digital sphere, social media reports have become a useful tool for law enforcement agencies to more closely grasp candidate behavior, specifically potentially problematic business-related behavior like intolerance, violence, and sexually explicit material. As the premiere social media screening service, Social Intelligence partners with other trusted screening agencies such as Miller Mendel to create an efficient, comprehensive battery of screening tools to better serve the needs of hundreds of law enforcement agencies across the country.

As police departments negotiate the future of law enforcement, Social Intelligence is proud to be able to provide agencies with tangible, achievable structural changes that will have lasting effects on future generations of officers.

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