Law enforcement has been in a recruiting crisis for several years and despite departments spending more time and resources on the issue than ever before, the issue continues to plague agencies across the country.

This is a unique problem for a profession that typically sees immediate results after placing a hyper-focus on a problem. In fact, after thirty years in the profession, I’m not sure I have seen any problem that we haven’t quickly turned around after placing sufficient energy towards it.

But it’s clear that recruiting is not turning around and in many cities, it’s actually getting worse.

I believe there is a simple, yet complicated reason for this dilemma. We are tackling the issue the only way we know how…Time and Money.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad the profession is dedicating time and money and we had no reason to think that it would not bring success but if we continue down the same paths, no amount of time or money will ever fix the recruiting issue.

Here are some examples of our efforts taking up extreme time and money that are clearly not working.

The 1995 Approach

Traditionally, recruiting took the form of college visits and job fairs but the world has changed and with technology must come a different approach.

Recruiting Websites & Videos

Flat design web site concept on multiple devices. Work desk with laptop, computer display, smart phone and tablet. Purple wall in bacground.

Until recently, the profession never had to actually recruit and while many agencies had “recruiters,” their efforts looked more like marketing than recruiting, but it never mattered.

There was always more candidates than openings so our “recruiting” efforts took the form of marketing our agencies to get the best of those candidates. Many agencies have figured out that the 1995 efforts stopped working long ago but they are still operating under the influence of our predecessors and taking the old marketing efforts and repackaging them in fancy websites and videos.

The obsession is so strong here, I’ve seen agencies fail in their recruiting with a great video and website only to make a new website and video, thinking that will fix it.

Marketing the profession is certainly needed but if we don’t understand that marketing was never designed for recruiting, we will keep wasting our time and money on a product that was never designed for hiring.


Advertising is also not recruiting and the typical “campaign” by departments takes all shapes and forms including social media ads, SEO, and online videos but once again that is not recruiting.

Advertising and its older cousin, marketing, have always been designed to sell products or to build brand awareness.

None of that is recruiting so if you are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on that activity and not seeing much traction, you should not be surprised.

How to Solve The Recruiting Problem

There is a solution to what law enforcement is facing, and it’s called recruiting. Here are some questions you need to ask any company that pitches “recruiting” to your agency:

1. What will it cost to acquire an interested candidate?

Recruiting companies will be able to tell you the cost of each interested candidate. The business calls it the return on investment (ROI). Marketing companies masquerading as recruiters will tell you about website hits but recruiters will tell you the exact cost it takes to acquire an interested candidate.

2. What will it cost to acquire an applicant?

Recruiters understand that interested candidates must be nurtured into actual applicants and they can place a cost on this for your agency. If you spend $100,000 with a marketing company, they will likely be able to guarantee how many website visits you will get but recruiters will be able to tell you how many applicants you can get.

3. Training & Expertise

Recruiters understand that successful recruiting requires a set of skills and processes to make the campaign successful. Marketers pitch automated processes and promise that a website, video, or advertising will just solve the issue but it never has and it never will. That idea may sell products automatically on your Shopify store but it will never convince someone to work for your agency.

There is Hope

What if $3 could get you an interested candidate?

What if I told you that a recent client spent $27 for every qualified applicant?

I’m not sure how you would react but last week I was explaining this to a chief and after telling him that for $1000 he could fill every opening he had, he asked me if they could do a cool video.

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