Law enforcement agencies across the United States are facing personnel shortages and many are operating at critical levels.
Because of the shortages, many departments are trying to convince officers from other departments to join their department. They are not adding to the overall ranks, just taking who they can from each other. Bonuses, shorter academies, laxed policies on grooming and even reduced physical fitness standards, everything is on the table.
We assume officers that “jump ship” are just tired of the profession. No, not always. When they leave a department for another, its often for other reasons. It is the discussion no one is having because it is easy to say all the external factors like the defund the police movement, horrible and lazy prosecutors, or bad city managers (don’t call them leaders) are the reason.
As much as we want to hide behind the external factors, and yes, they are important, the internal ones also matter. And it is often the internal politics or struggles they run from. When officers leave one department for another, ask why. Is it the external factors or is it because of a lack of leadership? Leadership matters.
I know many officers leaving because of the latter. They are looking for greener pastures. As one officer recently told me, “I can deal with the outside nonsense, it sucks but I can do it, it’s the toxic bosses within my ranks that I need to escape.” And when other departments are dangling carrots like signing bonuses, they take that chance.
If I am a department stakeholder, I am investing in my employees so that they do not want to leave. Or if they do leave, it’s not to another department. It is called retention, and it matters.
And investing is not promotion. Sadly, too many departments – organizations for that matter – think that employee development is through promotion. They are wrong. Development is not simply promotion.
When organizations are operating at critical levels, training and development tends to take a back seat.
I had a chief recently tell me he “could not afford to lose anyone to training even for a few hours.” How can he afford not to? By investing in that person and making them a leader in the organization, odds are the employee will stay and become a force multiplier for a culture that fosters growth and opportunity. These are environments people are less likely to leave. More importantly, these are the types of cultures we need, maybe now more than ever.
I see it all the time with the organizations and teams I work with, both within and outside of law enforcement. Not having a plan to develop your most important resource – your people – is dangerous.
Invest in your people.
- Brian Townsend, Eagle 6 Training