By Jesse Kerzner
Mentoring, other changes could improve law enforcement recruitment
Before I delve into my research, I want to express how thankful I am to have had this incredible opportunity. As this semester comes to an end and I reflect upon my experience as a Vinson Fellow, I can say that I truly understand the world-changing work done here at the Carl Vinson Institute of Government. My experience allowed me to interact with some incredible people and reinforced how important I feel public service is. My fellowship has further motivated me to continue to learn more about the most prominent issues facing the field of criminal justice.
My research project started on the foundation that American policing has an insecure future. Simply put, there are a variety of sources based both in academic and popular media that have declared a shortage of law enforcement officers in the United States. As a mundane example, a news article from a local ABC station in Arizona, titled “Arizona police agencies in desperate need of officers, looking to hire hundreds,” illustrates two glaring facts: the need for police officers is great, and the ability to recruit and support them is limited.
Historically, some law enforcement agencies have not always had strong tenets of personnel management. More specifically in my analysis, I looked at how agencies plan for personnel needs, recruit and retain officers, and select the right people for the job (qualified applicants), as well as the benefits and incentives they provide officers.
My research was conducted using a thorough content analysis approach. I compiled information from various primary sources, including peer-reviewed journal articles, retired and current law enforcement officers, government officials and community leaders. My research also include attending a meeting at the State Capitol with my faculty mentor, Dr. Mark Foster, of a task force state government leaders created to address the issues surrounding the improvement of law enforcement. I also attended one of Dr. Foster’s assessment sessions for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, and had the opportunity to interview current and retired officers from all over the Southeast.
My research indicated that the shortage of police officers in the U.S. is more critical than ever. Local law enforcement agencies are facing increasing challenges in recruitment and retention just as their work is becoming more complex. Higher standards, such as requiring a college education or a history of no or very limited drug use, are reducing the number of eligible applicants while agencies must take on increasingly complex tasks.
Based on my research, I concluded that law enforcement agencies could attract and retain more qualified officers by strengthening their mentorship programs, improving their collaboration with colleges and universities, and reconsidering their drug use restrictions. These recommendations could be catalysts towards a path to a more secure future for American policing.
Jesse Kerzner is a senior International Affairs and Criminal Justice major with a minor in Spanish. From Raleigh, N.C., he is a member of The Arch Society and Leadership UGA, an adviser to freshmen in the Student Government Association and a graduate of UGA’s LeaderShape Institute. His research interests include strategic intelligence, international law, comparative politics and the intersection of immigration and crime.