On Dec. 12 in Bloomington, the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association launched a statewide initiative to attract more applicants to law enforcement.
During a live press conference, the "Wear a Badge," campaign was introduced. Essentially the campaign is a series of promotional media and videos that highlight the positive aspects of the profession. Officers in these videos are often shown interacting with the community, upholding the law, and supporting their fellow officers.
The state of Minnesota is experiencing a major lack of interest in the police profession. Numbers of viable applicants have dropped statewide. "We are at a point of crises, we need quality people," said Minneapolis Police Chief, Medaria Arrandondo. Arrandondo went on to explain that this employment crisis is similar to the shortage of capable nursing staff that the state experienced a few years ago. A pool of applicants do exist but many of those applicants simply don't have the experience or qualifications needed to be excellent law enforcement agents.
The issue is not contained to any one community, it is a state wide epidemic affecting major metropolitan areas and smaller rural regions. During the press conference, the initial "Wear a Badge" promotional videos were showcased. In one particular video, officers from both Wadena and Verndale demonstrated the positive aspects of their career. Chief of Wadena Police, Naomi Plautz, casually spoke of the policing profession with a Verndale officer. They discussed the job in regard to small communities in addition to the importance of the profession and the honor that goes with it.
According to Plautz, the Wadena Police department is struggling to find outstanding individuals to become members of its team, however the department is not uniquely different from any other in Minnesota. Everyone is having this problem. One issue brought up at the conference was retention. It is important to attract people to the policing profession but it is equally important to keep them. Association members cited that many officers start out in one place, gain experience and important skills, then they move on to bigger markets, possibly out of state. In order to to cure the problem that plagues lawn enforcement in the state, officers need to start and stay in Minnesota. The personal satisfaction associated with the job seems to be a major component of the campaign. "Promoting the positives of the job," will go a long way to retaining officers in Minnesota according to Plautz.
Hutchinson Police Chief, Dan Hatten discussed the financial strain the drop in employment numbers has place on departments throughout Minnesota. According to his statistics, it costs $25,000 to train and keep a police officer on duty. If a department loses two to three of those individuals to different markets, that is a massive loss for the department. Hatten highly praised the campaign supplying a great deal of real world evidence to stress the value of what he and his colleagues consider to be one of the most honorable professions.
"We have an image problem," said Bloomington Police Chief, Jeff Potts. Potts discussed the admiration his community has for law enforcement officers. Some people think that a large portion of society has a great deal of animosity toward officers but to him that simply isn't true. He went on to explain that his officers can't go far in the community without be thanked for their tireless service. "Our communities love their police officers." said Potts while stressing the positive attributes police interacting with the community at large.
The police profession is in need of renewed vigor. Representatives explained to a crowd of journalists that departments across the state need to strengthen outreach programs that target youth that may be interested in a law enforcement career. They also expressed interest in individuals that may have chosen a different career but still have a strong desire to pursue a career in criminal justice. The association wants to create a pathway for those people so they can do their duty while their respective agency harnesses skills they may have gained in other fields. It was made abundantly clear that law enforcement must go through a constructive metamorphosis in order to stave off the woes of disinterest.