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Two Ways to Approach the Challenge of Law Enforcement Recruitment

In the aftermath of the pandemic, many municipalities struggle to recruit qualified workers to fill open positions. Local law enforcement agencies are not immune to this national crisis and are facing record staffing shortages, spurred by changing attitudes about policing after the murder of George Floyd in 2020. The challenge of public safety workforce recruitment is something we hear time and again – from speakers in panels and unofficial chats at the conferences we attend and from our law enforcement partners.

Law enforcement agencies are approaching this issue in two ways: first, to craft and deploy effective communication strategies to reach and attract potential recruits; second, to address root causes that have eroded trust in police.

Personal, Precise, and Proactive

To support our law enforcement and public safety partners, Zencity reviewed the most engaging posts shared across 171 US cities and counties from March 2022 to February 2023, from small towns to major cities and counties, to answer the fundamental question: Which communication strategies are most effective when publicizing public safety job openings? 

Based on over 3K posts shared by local law enforcement agencies about public safety recruitment, below are three messaging recommendations based on the top-performing posts:

  • Go personal: Posts featuring the people who make up the force and demonstrating the positive impact of officers’ daily duties on the community’s safety perform better. Share officers’ personal stories and showcase teamwork and camaraderie.
  • Be precise: Posts detailing the financial aspects of a law enforcement career, and application requirements, like experience level and deadlines, generate stronger engagement and are more likely to be shared. Provide the information you know potential recruits are interested in and provide clear incentives.
  • Get proactive: Posts showcasing recruitment booths and events and notifying residents of opportunities to inquire about available positions in person are similarly popular. Outline concrete next steps and a path forward for interested candidates.


Go beyond messaging – to measuring

Sentiment analysis of the recruitment messaging shared by police departments analyzed in the report reveals that, on average, these posts garnered 11x more positive than negative engagements (21% positive vs. 1.9% negative). However, in larger communities, positive sentiment was lower and negative sentiment higher – indicating that police recruitment efforts encountered more pushback and criticism in larger and more demographically diverse cities and counties.

pd recruitment graph

It is no surprise that law enforcement agencies in bigger cities are often viewed more critically, given the propensity of larger communities to suffer from higher crime rates or more tense relationships with the public. But in smaller and larger communities alike, the recruitment crisis is inextricably linked to how the police are perceived by the community it serves.

As Chief (ret.) David Rahinsky writes, “few people would want to join a profession that lacks public legitimacy (and those who do might not be the type of individuals who we would want to serve as police officers).” 

Police departments that tackle this crisis of trust head-on, by measuring how they are perceived by their residents and working to improve services, will be the best placed to rise to the hiring challenge.

Learn more about Zencity’s solution for Law Enforcement Agencies.



Read the full Public Safety Workforce Recruitment Messaging Best Practices Report.


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