Today’s law enforcement agencies seek a new breed of officers which intends to bring a balance of brawn and brains (Hess & Orthmann, 2008). However this task could be involving, it is rather important for those agencies to retain those officers who possess not only the physical qualities associated with law enforcement, such as strength and endurance but also those officers with the required skills to deal with people (Hess & Orthmann, 2008).
High retention rates in law enforcement agencies have a positive impact on the organizational reputation which in turn makes good business. Loosing high performers can have a negative impact on the law enforcement agency because of incurring extra costs of recruiting and training other officers. In this context it is fundamental that the agencies maintain high levels of employee retention.
Law enforcement agencies cannot force their employees to remain in the employment. However some situations dictate that these agencies retain some of their employees at work. This can be done in order to provide protection and safety for the job these officers handle. Besides that, retention is done to reduce issues related to customer management and customer retention. If situations related to employee exit from the agency are predicted it is important that the management of the agency puts down all this clauses in the employee contract and agreement terms.
Due to the ever changing demands of working environments it should be noted that not all turnovers are bad and that some occur because of reasons the management is not responsible for while others they are unable to control. Management of law enforcement firms should focus on addressing issues related to employee retention in order to reduce frustrations related to unexpected job exits. The turnover rate should also help the senior officers to figure out if or not the agency is doing something that is driving the employees away.
In the last decade Law enforcement agencies have experienced numerous of changes. The profession has become very dynamic as it is with other professions. Hess & Orthmann (2008) stated that “the force behind the professionalization of the police officer is the realization that to a large degree the future success of law enforcement is contingent on its police officers quality and effectiveness” (p. 438).
The importance of retaining officers in these agencies is a very critical part which cannot be overlooked. Blau (1994) stated that “policing is a tough and demanding profession because they have to take a lot of abuse and disappointment in addition to the danger, the boredom, and the injustice that they all come to know” (p. 27). As a result a number of good officers drop out of job after they are fully experienced, because of the problems and difficulties which outweigh the benefits of these law enforcement officers (Blau, 1994).
Law enforcement officers enter the profession to help people. However, Blau (1994) notes that some officers by the end of five years have the experience of being a significant intervener or participant in many useful or critical circumstances. He continues to state that those officers who continue and make a lifelong career of policing are motivated by the specialness of the most secret society within which they function (Blau, 1994).
Although it has been frequently denied either directly or with characteristic about law enforcement officer’s humor, it has been noted that they continue to be motivated by playing the role of my brother’s keeper (Blau, 1994). As a result they are viewed by the community as part of the thin blue line that separates civilization from the criminal jungle (Blau, 1994).
In addition Blau (1994) found out that “most law enforcement agencies have a fairly rigid chain of command” (p. 37). This therefore is the most challenging task which makes retaining of employees a fairly hard task to manage. The chain of command as mentioned by Blau focuses on police productivity as a function of people productivity (1994). Therefore management of people is the prime focus of the police executive. Much of emphasis should be on increasing the morale of personnel, communication, motivation, group dynamics and leadership skills.
Research on employee retention. Factors affecting employee retention.
Retaining policies should be determined ahead of time and made clear to all personnel when they will be exercised (Lewis, 2006).This are important aspects in the law enforcement agencies because they dictate how long an employee is supposed to serve. With these policies in place the law enforcement agencies are assured of little embarrassments resulting from unexpected employee exits.
Employee retention refers to how many of the current employees stick around the company or organization over a given period of time (Carsen, 2005). Contrary to the benefits that come with retention of employee’s high retention rate is not necessary a good thing. Carsen (2005) gives the reason that it can extend to retaining poor performers, and also unhappy employees who feel trapped in their jobs because of finances, inertia and a sense of obligation.
Maximizing the retention of good employees in a law enforcement agency means that the agency wants to keep a considerable number of good employees because they want to but not because they have to (Carsen, 2005). However, Carsen (2005) indicated that “sometimes people leave for reasons beyond the control of the management” (p. 2). He also continues to say that the management can do a lot to encourage employees to stay within the agency and be happy and productive over a long period of time (Carsen, 2005).
In addition, Carsen (2005) established that retention involves wedding out the underperformers to free up space and resources for the high achievers. It is beneficial to put the retention policy in such a way that it focuses on losing the losers and keeping the keepers (Carsen, 2005). The law enforcement agency should realize that the cost of replacing employees but at the end it is generally expensive.
Factors contributing to low retention rates in law enforcement agencies.
Taylor & Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (2002) noted that poor management in law enforcement agencies could lead to difficulties in maintaining good officers. Taylor, Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (2002) also indicated that “inconsistency arises when supervisors are promoted or moved internally to work with special groups” (p. 234) as a result this leads to confusion and lack of continuity in the law enforcement agency.
Patterns of work are also an issue in retaining officers in these agencies. Taylor& Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (2002) maintained that shift patterns, number of hours worked and lack of flexible working is a significant cause of high turnovers (p. 234). Apart from this factor career progression and development is important in the retention of good officers in a law enforcement agency. According to Taylor, Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (2002) fundamental career progression and development is access to training opportunities.
Job dissatisfaction and low morale among the officer can contribute to high rates of turnover. Taylor & Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (2002) therefore argued that workplace culture can result to difficulties in retaining the employees. In these agencies colleagues are expected to work together and support one another in all circumstances. When officers start complaining about the conduct or poor performance of colleagues this can cause a person to be ostracized to an extent of leaving the job.