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Hiring and Retention Issues in Police Agencies: Readings on the Determinants of Police Strength, Hiring and Retention of Officers, and the Federal COPS Program

NCJ Number
Date Published
October 2001
78 pages
This report presents a series of papers that address the following staffing issues in policing: determinants of police staffing levels; the processes of hiring and training officers; and retention patterns related to individual officers and staff positions.
Most of the findings are based on results from a telephone survey of a nationally representative probability sample of 1,270 police agencies conducted from June through August of 2000. Survey analyses are supplemented with analyses of national data on police employment and reviews of prior studies on the determinants of police strength. A review of 55 empirical studies of the determinants of police strength across places and/or over time yielded inconsistent findings for variables commonly used to predict police strength. The survey analyses that focused on police perceptions of staffing numbers suggest that grant money, crime levels, calls for service, and population size were viewed as some of the main contributors to the increase in police staffing levels from 1996 to 1999. Fiscal constraints and the lack of qualified recruits were perceived to be two of the leading causes of decline in police staffing levels during this same period. The analyses of data and information on the hiring and training of officers found that the process of screening and training new officers takes an average of 31 weeks in small agencies and 43 weeks in large agencies. Ninety-two of every 100 new hires in small agencies and 89 of 100 in large agencies successfully completed all training. Slightly less than 60 percent of the agencies reported that the length of the training process has increased in recent years due to new training requirements. Over half of small agencies and two-thirds of large agencies reported that a lack of qualified applicants caused difficulties in filling recent vacancies. Regarding officer attrition and tenure, the study found that officers served for shorter periods in small agencies than in large agencies. It is estimated that nearly half of the officers who departed small agencies and about one-quarter who left large agencies went on to other law enforcement work. Based on short-term (1-2 years) follow-up data, approximately three-fourths of the agencies with expired COPS (Community Oriented Policing Services) grants have retained their COPS-funded positions. Overall, observed and expected retention rates among COPS grantees appear to be consistent with historical retention patterns, based on a national analysis of 20 years of police employment data that examined the retention of new positions by police organizations following periods when the organizations grew substantially. Extensive figures and tables, 87 references, and appended methodological details

Date Published: October 1, 2001