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Police officer
retention strategies
and the role
of technology

Author: Gary Hilson

Police officer retention is an ongoing challenge for departments around the country. Policing has changed, which means your department must adapt its retention strategies to the new realities of the job. You must recognize how technology like social media and other digital platforms affect police and how new tools and capabilities can be used to help improve public and police officer safety.

Evolving technologies impact police officer retention

Gone are the days of an officer walking the beat, connected only by a radio or call boxes at a street corner—the job has changed to include mobile devices, body cams and more advanced surveillance technologies. Increasingly widespread deployment of 5G could potentially enable the use of big data, predictive analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT) technology to deliver information quickly to officers, supporting evidence-based policing and near real-time situational awareness that could potentially contribute to police officer safety.

All these technologies could be used to help prevent and solve crimes, but they require officers to have up-to-date technology skills. Expectations have changed—police officers must operate in a digital age where many crimes and solutions may be digital. They must navigate online crime, whether it's tracking criminals stealing digital currency or predators preying on vulnerable people and minors in online communities. Understanding what online activity is truly a threat and keeping up with online crime adds new pressures that must influence modern police officer retention strategies.

Because modern policing requires more technology skills, police officer recruitment and retention is in competition with other sectors of the economy, which means the pool of available applicants is always changing. Online crime means police officer retention strategies must compete for people with cyber security skills, who are in high demand and well paid for work that involves less risk than policing. This need for digital literacy and fluency must be met with opportunities for continuous learning on the job as well as the best technology.

Police officer retention strategies: Continuous learning keeps officers engaged

Providing opportunities to learn about cyber crime, digital forensic tools and other digital technologies can play a role in attracting technology-savvy talent to consider a career in policing. Modern technology can also streamline hiring processes and ensure everyone's time is focused on creating a positive impact on the community.

You can employ technology to make the application process faster and more efficient. Potential candidates may not be all that different than any other applicant looking for work—if the process is taking too long, they might turn to a job offer that comes sooner. It's important to leverage technology so your police officer recruitment process is thorough while still allowing for all the testing, interviews and background checks to take place. The right technology can enable everyone involved in the process to participate quickly and effectively.

Getting new recruits is only the beginning. When considering police officer retention strategies, you must bear in mind that the technology on the job is always evolving—whether it's the tools officers use or the digital platforms that criminals exploit. Keeping officers with your organization means providing continuous learning opportunities to improve their digital literacy and fluency, with a possible pathway to career advancement. You should develop a budget for regular training around critical technology topics for police officers, and consider employing technology to deliver training. While some officers may prefer in-person learning, on-demand online training and webinars can allow officers to learn at their convenience.

Police officer recruitment and retention strategies include big data and tech

While opportunities for learning and improving are often what keep people engaged in their jobs, most police officers don't go into police work to do paperwork. Whether its officers on a beat or those behind a desk, technology can go a long way to enabling police officer recruitment and retention. Rather than officers needing to fill out paper forms or waiting to get information related to a case, your organization should have high-performance connectivity and effective hardware and software that allow for paperless policing.

For example, mobile high-speed connectivity can provide access to applications that can provide officers with near real-time incident information. Faster speeds result in faster wanted and license checks which can help improve police officer safety. And secure, connected tablets and smartphones that enable encrypted communications and protected mobile applications can give officers access to documents in a shared and secure private cloud. This allows officers to do their work faster and more accurately. Faster response on criminal records, wanted person details and faster license plate lookups can all lead to improved police officer safety.

Technology also allows police officers to use their time more wisely and make a bigger difference in the community. They can be where they need to be, confident in the information they have at their fingertips. Your police officer retention strategies should incorporate the use of big data machine learning and predictive analytics to enable officers to better understand and combat crime. IoT technologies allow officers to efficiently collect data that can paint a more accurate picture of community trends and crime patterns. And analyzing big data can help officers prevent crime in hot spots and inform strategies that can improve communities so that, in the long run, less policing is required.

Applying these technologies can not only make officers more effective, productive and satisfied, but can also help to improve police officer safety. As with all first responders, police officers benefit from advanced networks and technologies that allow them to communicate reliably and leverage the best tools. Knowing they're having a positive impact on their communities and doing the work that needs to be done ultimately goes a long way toward improving police officer recruitment and retention.

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