Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Hiring new officers

We're in the initial stages of selecting a class of 10-20 officers to start training this fall. It's a process you can read more about on our recruitment web page.

We size classes based on long-term projections of turnover. Accuracy in these predictions is very important. An important part of my job is financial administration, and I have to live within the budget authorized by the City Council. Hiring in anticipation of turnover that doesn't happen has a huge monetary impact. This is a particularly big concern this fiscal year, because our budget is very tight, and we have to absorb 1% of our personnel expenditures--we only got 99% of the actual cost. In our case, that's $250,000 that we have to find. We are also in a peak year for scheduled retirements--nearly double our previous fiscal year and our next fiscal year. Retirement payouts this year will total around a half million dollars. The reverse is also true. Underestimating needs for new officers is a serious mistake, and due to the recruitment cycle and the rather lengthy training time, it takes well over a year to recover.

I use an Excel spreadsheet with built-in formulas that calculate such things as retirements, voluntary attrition, and failure to complete training. These are based on over 20 years of historical data, so we can predict the size of the classes we are going to need to maintain our authorized strength. We also try to predict where we think the City Council and the Mayor might go in the future in terms of increasing our authorized strength. It's a lot of math, and a good deal of educated guessing, but these prediction tools have been remarkably accurate.

The class of 10-20 we'll be hiring this fall (the range depends on what happens in the City budget deliberations this summer) will be filling the positions that we expect will turnover during the fiscal year beginning in September, 2008.

We have no shortage of applicants. Last year, 789 people applied for the 20 positions we filled. That's been pretty typical: since 1994, we have averaged 656 applicants per year, and hired just 3.9% of the total.

Nonetheless, we're always looking for more, because we want the best people we can possibly find. Internally, it seems that there is always a perception by some that the quality of the new hires has slipped. I think this comes in part from the simple fact that not everyone we hire makes it on the job. Despite professional test consultants, psychologists, a hiring review panel, and a daunting selection process, there is still no way of being certain a new recruit has the makings of a Lincoln police officer until she or he is on the job. That's why our field training program is such an important part of our selection process.

Personally, I don't agree with those who think our new officers aren't as good as they used to be. I think the quality of the pool is as good as it has ever been, and that applicants come to us with exceptional education, experience, and skills. There is just a natural human tendency for people to look upon the generation behind them as somehow less capable--even if the "generation" is just the next class!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How about requiring EVERY officer, investigator, sergeant, and captain that works inside to work the street once a month (TO TAKE CALLS) on a Friday or Saturday night? That would relieve some of the pressure on staffing and give a few of a us a breather. Heck, someone that works the street might even be able to take a weeekend off for a change.