Monday, June 11, 2007

Changing Standards Highlight Importance of Community Policing

With police departments nationwide relaxing standards in order to recruit new officers, the community policing philosophy is necessary for developing an effective law enforcement team. Ongoing training and development in leadership, law enforcement and community policing principles is critical to the success of any department.

Law enforcement must play a vital role in the transformation of America. Working collaboratively with the community is a key component to violence prevention. Individuals throughout rank and file law enforcement must be committed to their profession, dedicated to the principles of leadership, vigilance, and character, and aware of their enormous opportunity to favorably impact the community.

[Reprinted from the MSNBC website –]

Youth, fitness no longer police prerequisites
Some departments even look past drug use
more than five years ago

In recent years, St. Petersburg and Tampa, Fla., dropped the need for a two-year college degree if the candidate has military or law enforcement experience. Oakland, Calif., is no longer disqualifying applicants for minor, long-ago drug convictions or gang involvement. And Boston this spring raised the upper age limit for recruits from 32 to 40.

"Being well-rounded, having some life experience, makes for a better person and patrolman _ someone who is coming up on a conflict who is mature and measured, as opposed to some young kid right out of school," said Boston City Councilor Michael Flaherty, who proposed the age-limit increase.


The relaxation of standards — a trend that emerged in Associated Press interviews and reviews of policies in 50 cities — has been prompted in large part by a dire need for police recruits.

A federally funded study last spring by the Police Executive Research Forum, a Washington advocacy group for police chiefs and commissioners, found that 10 percent of the nation's police departments had severe shortages of officers.

New York City is looking to hire 3,000 officers. The Los Angeles police want 1,000 more cops; Houston needs 600; Washington is short 330; Phoenix is down about 200; and the Boston force is about 100 officers below its 2000 level.

Among the reasons: The strong economy is offering other job possibilities, aging cops are retiring, starting salaries are low, and the Iraq war is drawing off both would-be police recruits and police officers who are in the National Guard and Reserves.

"There's a real demand for really good people, and there's a limited supply," said Chuck Wexler, director of the Police Executive Research Forum. "Cities are having to take a second look at their recruitment standards."

Push-ups vs. life experience

The change in standards also reflects a desire by some departments to focus less on push-ups per minute and more on life experience. Many say older recruits might be less hotheaded and less trigger-happy, and that could mean the difference between escalating or defusing a tense situation.

"There is a movement afoot to focus more on people who are creative problem-solvers," said Gilbert Moore, spokesman for the U.S. Justice Department.

The Indiana State Police last year raised the maximum age for recruits from 35 to 40. Houston went from 36 to 44 last summer.

"We had very few qualified candidates," Houston spokeswoman Johanna Abad said. "The larger pool allows for candidates that are coming out of a military career to go into a second career, which they are qualified for. It's made our pool of applicants a lot more attractive."

The higher age limit in Boston was good news for Stephanie O'Sullivan, a former member of the U.S. women's hockey team who wanted to be an officer, but at 35 was too old. She is applying to the Boston department.

O'Sullivan owns and operates a hockey school with her brother, former NHL player Chris O'Sullivan. She also has a master's degree in criminal justice and works as an investigator for the district attorney's office.

"There's great qualified candidates out there, from the city, that are committed, that have already exhibited a good work ethic, they're mature, responsible. Those are the assets I think you need on the job today," O'Sullivan said.


While many departments have no upper age limits, usually out of fear of age-discrimination lawsuits, some are seeing the advantages of older recruits, provided they can meet the physical requirements.

In North Carolina, the Wilmington police recently hired Lawrence Egerton, who turns 57 in December. He has been a social worker, and most recently owned an auto mechanic business. He passed all the physical tests and graduated from the academy as the oldest in a class of 13.

Older officers bring "overall maturity and life experience," Egerton said. He added: "I tend to get a lot of cooperation just because of my age. Whether I'm arresting someone or getting people to divulge information, I think people assume that I've been out there for a long time."

Egerton admitted, however, that 10 1/2-hour shifts can be exhausting. "When I'm done, I have dinner, read the paper and go to bed," he said.

The Police Executive Research Forum study also noted a drop from 36 percent to 20 percent in recent years of departments that require candidates to have a clean criminal record.


MSNBC Article Click here to visit site

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home