Have you considered strategies to hire military veterans? These professionals are a natural fit for law enforcement. Due to their military occupation, they have developed disciplines beneficial for life as police officers. There are so many skills that transfer, from weapons training to advanced first aid, to various forms of technology. Indeed the armed forces offer a fantastic foundation for future police officers.

Moreover, beyond work related skills is the culture. Since dedication, a sense of service, and teamwork are incorporated into the work environment, values are broadened and crossover to police work somewhat seamlessly. And the sense of service that members of the military possess is the same feeling for duty grafted into the DNA of police officers. As a result, the sheepdog mentality to serve as community guardians is present.

I’m probably preaching to choir while articulating reasons to hire military veterans, so let’s review some strategies to get them in uniform for your organization.

Recruit Military Veterans

Oftentimes we expect candidates to find us. But if scouting works when recruiting athletes for college and professional sports, why not law enforcement? If you have a military installation nearby, schedule a visit with the specific purpose of finding candidates. Many organizations participate in career day on college campus, so why not take your resources to a base?

Open House

In addition to recruiting on their turf, plan an open house so potential recruits can visit your department. I’m not referring to an open house for the public, but an invitation so service members can privately visit your organization.

Market the event to nearby military posts, and view their visit much like students visiting a college campus. Be authentic and realistic with the candidates, but put your best foot forward. Offer them a tour of your department. Have some of your former military members available to chat with the recruits as they evaluate your agency.

Treating a candidate like a person with value may give you the edge over a competing agency for the service of a blue-chip new-hire.

Cast a Wide Net Hiring Military Veterans

Do not restrict recruitment to military police or other career fields that you’d closely associate with police work. The military is filled with foundational career training that can benefit a person as a police officer.

Minimum Educational Requirements

When I began my career in law enforcement, possessing a military background was almost compulsory. As the demand to increase professionalism became paramount, formal education soon became the primary desired prerequisite. The amount of education required would depend upon the organization. Most agencies desired at least 30 college units, while some required a bachelor’s degree.   

So many agencies increased the number of scholar-cops, while losing the presence of military veterans. Fortunately, in my area the pendulum swung back to center, requiring various levels of college along with placing value in military service.

Life experience should always be viewed as important when hiring police officers since our employees are placed in the center of one crisis after another. That is why a military background is highly desirable. They possess real world experience that cannot be obtained in a classroom. Conversely, we also want our officers to be able to function in a professional environment. Therefore, both traits (military background AND college education) should be sought without disregard for the other.

As such, I believe it is detrimental to eliminate a valuable pool of candidates possessing military service simply because they do not possess a minimum number of college units.

I think most of us can tell horror stories of people that were hired because of their advanced degrees just to crash and burn as street cops. Conversely, the same can happen with those lacking a college education too. The point is to evaluate every aspect of a candidate and to analyze their ability to succeed as a peace officer, not simply the pedigree on paper.

Integrating Culture

Every new employee needs to adapt to your organizational culture. You know what it is, they do not. As a result, visiting military candidates on their turf might provide insight whether they will be able to adapt to the norms at your department.

Moreover, you might consider the culture surrounding the military base? Is it similar to yours? If the post is near your jurisdiction, it may be significantly different than a military installation 100 miles from your city. Oftentimes we look for these attributes during the psychological profile, but do not underestimate the evaluation process during the recruiting process.

Essentially, you want to discern whether the candidate can successfully adjust to your agency. The sooner you figure this out the better it will be for everyone.

Communicate Expectations

Whether a highly desirable candidate finishes the hiring process with your department or not may boil down to effectively communicating expectations. You should not only explain the process, but the timeframe it typically takes to complete each step.

Hence, keeping the candidate informed will also become a recruiting tool to attract additional candidates. When they have correct information, they will relay it to their friends.

New Hires Should be Your Best Recruiters

If your agency has done a good job integrating military personnel into your organization, they will become your best recruiting tools. If the process is painful and filled with deceit, do not expect them to convince friends to apply. Actually, it will work against your best interests. They will steer partners to another agency. Therefore, use the hiring process to your advantage by making it a recruiting tool. And you’d do well to find qualified members of the military.

– Jim McNeff, editor-in-chief, Law Enforcement Today

(Photo: defenseimagery.mil)