Major Ben's articles

Below is a list of articles by Major Ben Brooks that have appeared in the Times Herald.

 

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Minority Recruitment: A Growing Dilemma

By Major Ben Brooks

Law enforcement is facing a serious dilemma of how to attract and retain females and minorities within its ranks. At a time when debate is growing over the program of police profiling and the numbers of females and minorities interested in law enforcement as a career are dwindling, the public is demanding that its police force be representative of the community it serves. Unfortunately, many police commanders are reluctant to realistically approach the subject in a comprehensive way.

Every organization wrestles with how to effectively recruit quality personnel to meet its diverse needs. Because of declining skill levels and low unemployment, finding quality recruits poses a challenge. Organizations are trying many strategies to land the big catch. Despite these efforts, seeing the futility of many recruiting programs raises the following questions in my mind: Do organizations understand the value of recruiting? Do they understand why they must recruit? Do they understand who is responsible for recruitment?

To effectively administer a program, one must have a thorough knowledge of what’s involved. So, just what is recruiting? Webster defines recruiting as drafting, enlisting, or inducting. In other words, it is how organizations attract the human resources they require to meet their needs.

What is the value of recruiting?

An organization that embarks on a realistic, comprehensive recruiting program is able to carefully select the personnel it needs to address the growing number of issues it faces. To accomplish this, the organization must be clear about goals, objectives, mission, and vision, and every member of the organization must be thoroughly familiar with these organizational tenets. Let’s take the philosophy that people are the most valued asset of an organization a step further: The right people are the most valued asset. If recruiting is done the right way for the right reasons, organizations should enjoy lasting rewards from their selections.

Why recruit?

When an organization faces a customer base that cries out to be represented, it must respond. Several decades ago, the law enforcement profession was seriously disconnected from the community. No one saw the need to be concerned about who was representing law enforcement. After the turbulent ’60s, however, the focus shifted to how to fairly and effectively treat those who felt disenfranchised within the community. More and more police departments began to make sure that the people within their ranks represented the community they served.

One can point to events such as the Rodney King incident in Los Angeles or the John Gammage incident in Pittsburgh as examples of what can happen when a police force does not adequately represent the community or its members are insensitive as to how to deal with others in the community who are different from them. With a proper recruitment program, however, police departments can carefully select officers who are most responsive to the needs of the community.

Who is responsible?

The initial responsibility for recruiting rests with the head of the organization. Millennium predictions indicate a dramatic shift in the demographics and a change in national philosophy that commanders must meet if the organization is to survive. However, every member plays a key role in helping the organization to meet this challenge. The current practice of assigning a few select individuals to represent the organization may work for a short while, but the lasting effect will be realized only when each member is empowered and given the responsibility of helping to meet the challenge.

What is the answer?

Customer service is the new buzzword among law enforcement organizations. To date, most of the emphasis has been on the external customer. As a result, many law enforcement officers have not embraced the concept of customer service and instead view their work as Us versus Them. This has occurred largely because the commanders did not fully understand the implications of the concept.

Community-Oriented Policing attempts to bring this philosophy to the forefront, but the profession has been very slow to embrace the phenomenon. The reality is that a police department must be committed to quality customer service, both internally as well as externally.  How the internal customer is treated directly affects how he or she interacts with the external customer. In the end, those who want to become police officers will form their impressions, not from the carefully selected recruiter who makes the wonderful speech, but from the officer with whom they have daily contact.

Headlines that read “Two police employees appeal their demotions over racist flyers,” “Police officer admits framing suspect,” and “Motorist stopped for driving because he’s black” seriously harm any positive efforts a department has made to institute an effective recruiting program. There must be a serious turnaround in this Neanderthal way of thinking if law enforcement is to effectively address its needs.

One of the greatest recruitment tools within any organization is a candidate who was successfully recruited him or herself. Every person employed within an agency has the responsibility to recruit those individuals who will best address the organization’s needs. Nowhere does this hold truer than when recruiting minorities. Minorities who were successfully recruited have a moral as well as an organizational responsibility to reach out to other minorities. In particular, high-ranking individuals who have retired from a police force make excellent candidates for helping to sell young prospects on the merits and benefits of becoming a member of the organization.

Recruiting is like fishing. If you know that the stream is stocked with prize fish, do you fish upstream where you hope they will be, or downstream where you know they will be? If you are constantly having difficulty identifying, attracting, recruiting, and retaining a good quality minority candidate, maybe you are fishing in the wrong pond and using the wrong bait.

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