A panel of county public safety experts discussed the hiring and retention challenges faced by public safety services on August 18 at the 2017 MACo Summer Conference. The panel was titled “The Key to Public Safety: Locking Down Your Hiring Process” and was moderated by Maryland Senator Cheryl Kagan.
Captain Lisa Myers, Howard County Police Department Human Resources Bureau, focused on the broad challenges facing law enforcement personnel, including: (1) social media expectations; (2) cell phone and body camera video prevalence; and (3) proper training. Myers noted that millennials have different workplace expectations than previous generations, including a better work/life balance.
St. Mary’s County Sheriff Timothy Cameron expanded on the millennial issue for both law enforcement and corrections officers, noting that millennials like to be in charge/have independent authority, and offer and receive immediate feedback. Cameron noted that his department has worked to revise interview practices and forms . Cameron stated that while the number of employment applications for the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Department have increased, the number of high quality candidates has actually decreased to about 1 in 100.
Dorchester Emergency Services Director Anna Sierra discussed the issue from a 9-1-1 center perspective, noting the significant skill set differential between call taking and dispatching. Sierra noted that even with a computerized aptitude test, the required background check and polygraph test can create a long application process.
The speakers also discussed retention strategies, including: (1) access to upgraded technology; (2) new training and career growth opportunities; (3) government support, such as through tax credits; (4) assignment rotation; and (5) recognition for performing well.