Washington, DC - This week, the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice held a hearing on law enforcement recruitment, training, and retention over three days via teleconference. Each teleconference featured expert witnesses who provided testimony and, subsequently, answered questions from the Commissioners.
On Tuesday, May 12, the Commission received testimony from Dr. Charlie Scheer, Assistant professor at the University of Southern Mississippi; Arlington (Texas) Police Chief Will Johnson; Valerie Cunningham, Deputy Chief of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, and; Mike Yankowski, Assistant Director of Institutional Ethics and Compliance at Michigan State University and the retired chief of Lansing Police Department.
Testimony and discussions focused on recruitment. Dr. Scheer provided the results of a comprehensive survey on police recruitment, and Chief Johnson recommended grant funding for police cadet programs to encourage young people to commit to the profession. Deputy Chief Cunningham recommended “focusing on marketing campaigns that are inclusive of females, tailoring all contact the agency has with its applicants so that it’s mutually beneficial to both, focusing on the preview of what the career will look like to that applicant, and developing a meaningful professional relationship with the applicants.” Chief Yankowski provided the final testimony, addressing the need to hire people who fit the community policing mindset – individuals who are highly ethical, of good moral character, and good communicators. “We can't make the mistake of just hiring a warm body to fill that vacancy,” he said.
On Wednesday, May 13, the Commission heard testimony from Erik Bourgerie, Director, Colorado Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST); Palm Beach County (Fla.) Sheriff Ric Bradshaw, and; Cass County (Nebraska) Sheriff William (Bill) Brueggemann.
Testimony and discussion focused on training. POST Director Bourgerie testified about the need for experiential based training. “As the academy progresses, training scenarios should become more complex, such as domestic violence calls. Our current training method fails both our peace officers and our domestic violence victims. The first time new peace officers encounter the complexity, emotions and dangers inherent in a DV call is when they’re in the field and lives are truly on the line.” Sheriff Bradshaw testified about the lack of management training, stating, “As older, experienced officers retire, they leave upper level vacancies that will often be filled with officers with little or no formal leadership or management training.” He advocates for an investment in future leaders. Sheriff Brueggemann recommended regional training centers and reforms to training academies in order to provide more seats for small and rural departments.
On Thursday, May 14, the Commission completed its hearing with testimony from William “Bill” Johnson, Executive Director, National Association of Police Organizations Inc. (NAPO); Pima County (Ariz.) Sheriff Mark Napier; Baltimore (Md.) Police Commissioner Michael Harrison, and; Tempe (Ariz.) Police Chief Sylvia Moir
Testimony and discussion focused on retention. Executive Director Johnson recommended that “every officer in this nation have access to a peer mentoring program. One cannot overstate the importance of confidential, peer mentoring services to supporting officers’ mental health and wellness.” Chief Moir shared a similar sentiment, saying that there is a recognition that officer wellness encompasses more than physical health. It includes the mental and emotional well-being, as well -- healthier officers are more productive officers, so successful agencies are starting wellness programming in the Academy and continuing it throughout an officer’s career. Sheriff Napier testified that “there is inadequate funding for substantive research into the development of best practices for law enforcement leaders confronting modern policing challenges. In addition, there’s very limited research into officer wellness, causes of officer suicide and suicide prevention.” He recommends “the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA) make available substantive funding over 10 years for meaningful law enforcement research." Commissioner Harrison shared: “The most common issues I hear about when I speak with officers are the state of the facilities they work in, the conditions of vehicles the drive, and the age of the technology and equipment that they use every day. Improving these conditions is a cornerstone of my five-year Departmental Transformation and Improvement Plan because it speaks to the culture of the department and whether the officers feel the department is making the right investments in their well-being.”