How a police department is taking an all-hazards approach to recruitment and retention
failing to keep up with attrition, the City of Topeka and the Topeka
Police Department had to think outside of the box
Editor's note: This special coverage series, Recruitment & Retention Crisis: The Struggle to Hire – and Keep – Good Cops,
will take an in-depth look at the recruitment and retention challenges
currently facing police agencies, share potential solutions to the
crisis and highlight best practices progressive PDs are deploying to
bolster their ranks. Watch for further installments of this series
throughout the rest of 2017.
the last year, the department set out to hire 36 police officers, but
ended up with only 12. Compounding this issue were the numbers of police
officers who transferred to other agencies and the private sector.
recruitment failing to keep up with attrition, the City of Topeka and
the Topeka Police Department knew they had to think outside of the box
and, in doing so, implemented the following police officer recruitment
and retention strategies:
1. Offered a hiring bonus
department just implemented a $5000 hiring bonus, the first recipients
of which are currently in the hiring process. This helped with
recruiting efforts in the face of competing agencies frontloading their
2. Created a police recruit position
department created a police recruit position, which allows Topeka PD to
hire applicants up to 90 days before the next police academy starts.
through salary savings, it has helped prevent applicants from accepting
jobs at other agencies while waiting for the police academy to begin.
These police recruits perform administrative tasks and ride-alongs,
obtaining a better understanding of daily operations.
3. Focused on lateral transfer candidates
We recognize that the lives and situations of police officers change. Accordingly, the department put in place a lateral transfer program that focuses on getting certified officers up to speed and on the street.
approval of the chief, certified Kansas law enforcement officers are
hired at one pay step for every two years of experience (up to step
three). The lateral transfer program consists of a three-week training
academy and eight-week field training phase.
4. Attended career fairs at colleges and military installations
Topeka PD joins the rest of law enforcement
that attends career fairs and sets up recruiting booths at colleges and
military installations on a regular basis. We recently extended these
recruiting booths to community events as well.
We have also worked
with colleges and military installations to give recruiting
presentations to groups of students and service members. These
presentations afford us the opportunity to more efficiently reach and
present our department information to larger groups of people.
February 2018, the department will participate in its first “virtual”
job fair, consisting of a live video conference with military personnel
While at career fairs on military installations, Topeka’s recruiting team networks with Transition Assistance Program (TAP)
personnel to help with recruiting efforts. These relationships have
proven fruitful in reaching potential applicants who are transitioning
out of the military.
a cost of $11,000, a short recruitment video was played during 20 movie
theater showings per day and in three cable TV regions for a total of
three months. This video was also uploaded to Facebook and YouTube.
6. Conducted traveling POST and POPAT tests
the department only administered the POST and POPAT locally. At a cost
of $11,500, a new push-pull machine and an enclosed trailer were
purchased so we could take our hiring test on the road.
recently completed our first traveling test, administering it at a large
Army installation. The success of this trial has paved the way for a
consistent traveling testing schedule in the future.
relationships we have fostered with TAP personnel, we have contacted
other military installations and are currently scheduling additional
We travelled 70 miles for the first test. The next two tests we plan to administer are 139 miles and 260 miles, respectively.
7. Hosted an explorer program
department hosts the TPD Law Enforcement Explorer Post #7721. This
mentorship program brings in youth aged 14 to 21 to educate and train
them in law enforcement experiences. Weekly, they get a unique look at
what law enforcement does and why they do it. Over 20 past explorers are currently employed with the agency.
8. Adopted a 10-hour shift schedule
on your research, the national average for law enforcement attrition
rates is about 15 percent. Of the 160 police officers hired since 2009,
57 left the Topeka Police Department for one reason or another, putting
us well over double the national average. As such, we knew we needed to
improve morale and working conditions.
One of the biggest steps our department took to improve retention was adopting a 10-hour shift schedule for officers assigned to patrol.
While the benefits of a 10-hour shift schedule are shared by all stakeholders, the effect on police officers is dramatic:
52 more days off per year;
More police officers on the street during peak times;
A schedule template that promotes on-shift training.
Although it is too early to tell what impact this will have on
our agency (it does not go live until after the first of the year), we
know we have lost officers and applicants to agencies working 10-hour
9. Offered additional training
Another area our agency has been concentrating on to retain police officers is training.
losing three officers in less than two years, Topeka PD implemented a
training program aimed at conducting safer car stops. The training was
based in part on the Force Science Institute’s car stop study. According to three officers who submitted their thoughts in writing, this training has helped save officers’ lives.
10. Diversified training offerings
department recently leased a facility from the Kansas National Guard.
While the National Guard was consolidating personnel at another
facility, our department was outgrowing the space at our Law Enforcement
Center. The timing worked out, and our department was able to lease and
remodel the vacant space. The entire Topeka Police Academy and training
staff were moved offsite to this newly acquired facility.
facility offers a much larger classroom with state-of-the-art audio and
video equipment, a 180-degree Milo Range firearms simulator and a full-size gymnasium.
located on a federal installation, access to the facility is controlled
and the training grounds are secure. I have been lucky enough to attend
training all over the country and, in my opinion, this new training
facility puts the Topeka Police Department on par with top-tier
This facility has been paid for by budget savings and federal forfeiture funds.
many of these initiatives are so new, we do not have any data to share
on our success to date; however, twice as many applicants took our
hiring test in 2017 than in 2016. We are eagerly waiting for the time
when our efforts can be better quantified.
About the author Officer Matt Cobb has served with the Topeka Police Department for
11 years. He currently serves as the full-time Topeka Police Academy
Instructor. Previous assignments include the bicycle unit and eight
years in field operations on third shift. Officer Cobb served four years
in the Marine Corps and is an Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran. Officer
Cobb holds a Bachelor’s of Business Administration from Baker
University. Officer Cobb maintains numerous instructor certifications
and assists the Topeka Police Department in meeting training