Incentivizing Law Enforcement Service to Improve Community Involvement and Professionalism
Law enforcement agencies across the country have experienced a significant decline in qualified applicants. It is believed that this is partially due to an improved economic climate, where the labor market and open private sector positions have become more appealing than that of a career in law enforcement (Police Executive Research Forum, 2019). As such, this has created a challenge over the last decade to restaff following the force reduction that took place between 2009-2011, exacerbated by the high-profile police use-of-force encounters publicized since 2014 (Police Executive Research Forum, 2019, p. 13). By 2029, it is projected that law enforcement will gain 40,000 new positions (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2020), in addition to the existing vacancies caused by a large amount of retirements and attrition due to burnout (Police Executive Research Forum, 2019, p. 13). This means the next ten years are critical if serious action is not taken to recruit and retain the next generation of quality police officers. With these challenges, agencies have reduced their hiring standards in order to fill their open positions in contrast to the community outcry for more educated and professional police. However, if more incentive is placed on public service, namely law enforcement, in the form of educational benefits, perhaps more well-educated people would show interest in the profession. Considering rising tuition costs, and large student loan debt, it is difficult to recruit someone to a career that pays statistically less than the private sector. However, if tuition was free and individuals could receive a quality education of their choosing in exchange for service to their community, agencies could improve the hiring pool to meet the societal demands.