Investigation of police recruitment materials in the U.S.

U.S. law enforcement agencies aim to recruit qualified candidates, facing challenges when seeking to enhance demographic diversity among officers. In the case of women, they are shown to have significant competencies when it comes to effective policing, helping to restore confidence in the police or obtain high rates of case resolution, but with a lower use of force.

The goal of the study was to understand how police agencies use online recruitment materials to recruit female officers. The research assessed the prevalence of text, images, and videos featuring women, as well as individuals from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. It also examined content related to recruitment and the job itself, employing thematic analysis to comprehend the representation of police and diversity.

The police recruitment materials highlighted various characteristics that acted as deterrents for women considering applying to the police force. Police agencies do not provide consistent messages about diversity, resources for women, or support for work/life balance. In addition, differences were found between the police with the highest and lowest percentages of female presence, with inconsistent and often contradictory messages.

The document stresses that greater representation of women in law enforcement agency positions better reflects the social diversity of the communities they serve. Along these lines, the Task Force on 21st Century Policing recommended that agencies strive to create a workforce that contains a wide range of diversity based on race, gender, language, life experience and cultural background to improve understanding and effectiveness in dealing with society.

Despite the benefits previously identified, female representation in police organisations has lagged behind that of other historically underrepresented demographic groups. For example, although the representation of racial and ethnic minorities in the police reached 27% during 2013, women represented only 12%.

This research concludes that public recruitment material is quite deficient when it comes to recruiting women for the police. People make employment decisions based on imperfect information, as job applicants have limited knowledge of an organisation and a job until they are hired and fill the position. In the context of this study, jobseekers must infer what a job and an organisation are like from the limited information available to them through channels such as websites, social networks and personal contacts. Recruitment materials should have a stronger value for people with less pre-existing information about the organisation.

Although there is awareness of the obstacles to entering a police career, there is limited understanding of the content and messaging employed by police agencies on their websites and social media accounts. This study contributes to the existing literature by quantifying and describing current practices and providing recommendations for aligning current practices with evidence-based practices. To this end, they set out to answer the following questions:

1. How is diversity described in agency recruitment materials?

2. How do agencies address barriers and facilitate access to law enforcement careers?

3. What themes do police agencies use to describe a career in law enforcement?

4. How do the above characteristics differ between agencies that employ more or fewer women?

To answer these questions, a content analysis was conducted of online recruitment materials from a purposively selected set of agencies, which varied by location, agency type and size, and proportion of female police officers.


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Modernising the recruitment of new police officers in the U.S.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and with a very challenging job market, community frustration with the police profession increased exponentially, as did concerns about officer safety and welfare. All across the country, law enforcement agencies are facing a historic crisis in recruiting and retaining qualified candidates.

As agencies continue to look for innovative ways to attract qualified potential candidates while retaining current personnel, the crisis demands an immediate and effective response to ensure that law enforcement can maintain sufficient staffing levels to serve the public safety needs of their communities. Tackling these issues may require an examination of agencies’ foundational organizational structure and processes to meet the needs and expectations of both law enforcement and the community more clearly and simply.

In response to this situation and recognising that how law enforcement professionals are hired and retained has a major impact on reducing violent crime, as well as overall public safety and community trust, Attorney General Merrick Garland identified these issues as a top priority for the U.S. Department of Justice.

The Bureau of Justice Assistant (BJA) and Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), agencies of the US Department of Justice, brought together a group of more than 30 law enforcement and community leaders from across the country in Washington in April of this year to discuss existing best practices and emerging and transformative solutions designed to address current uniformed personnel challenges.

In addition to command staff and other police leaders from diverse associations, it was emphasized that recruitment and retention issues are among the most significant problems facing federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial law enforcement agencies across the country, regardless of size or location.

All of these reflections, recommendations and conclusions were compiled in a report on the recruitment of new police officers. Among the document’s recommendations are:

  • Short-term solutions, with a shorter implementation time.
  • Long-term strategies, with more time to implement them.
  • Introduce young people, as early as primary school, to law enforcement and public safety as a career.
  • Leverage the existing skills and interest of potential recruits in the policing profession with greater focus on programs such as internships (short-term) and apprenticeships (long-term).
  • Establish educational alliances.
  • Work with local secondary schools to identify and develop immersion opportunities.
  • Work with institutions of higher education to offer courses designed to teach students material relevant to a police career.
  • Consider creating a degree program focused exclusively on preparing students for careers in law enforcement.

As main conclusions, the document states that:

  • Law enforcement is at a crossroads as many officers leave the profession through resignation or retirement, while candidates are becoming less and less qualified.
  • The long-term strategies provided in this report invite law enforcement agencies to work to increase the attractiveness of policing as a job option, attract good candidates, and better prepare new recruits for the realities of modern policing.
  • It must be ensured that existing employees know they are valued, that the health and safety of the workforce is promoted, and that community trust is increased.


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Use of inaccessible data in police use of force in the U.S.

The use of force by police officers is currently a matter of great public interest. From 2018 to 2022, thanks to an award from the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office), the City of Rochester (New York), the Rochester Police Department (RPD) and the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) collaborated in order to study incidents of use of force by the RPD.

The main goal of the project was to help the public understand the RPD’s use of force that went beyond engaging with viral videos. To guarantee the privacy of both officers and others involved in the RPD’s use of force, as well as to produce a large number of incidents, the researchers aggregated the use of force incidents into one dataset.

The report, published by the U.S. Department of Justice, highlights that the creation and analysis of this data set also enabled the RPD and RIT to pursue the secondary goal of uncovering potential improvements in RPD policy and training on the use of police force.

The purpose of this paper is to help other agencies replicate this project with their own data on use of force. Therefore, the paper sets out not only the findings of this project, but also the processes used and the challenges the researchers found in the hope that other police agencies can use and extend them.

Thus, it is relatively easy to access data on each use of force incident for the purpose of examining a single incident, but extremely difficult to aggregate them into a data set of all use of force files.

Due to the inaccessibility of the data, a significant part of that project was the transformation of a PDF image folder into a row and column dataset.

After creating the dataset, the researchers undertook two tasks: first, describing that dataset for a lay audience and, second, gaining new insights into the RPD’s use of force.

To help other law enforcement agencies to replicate this analysis, the researchers explain several organizational and bureaucratic challenges they encountered that other agencies could potentially avoid or mitigate.

This report concludes with recommendations for different police agencies considering this or similar attempts to learn from existing local data analysis, which are as follows:

  • Law enforcement agencies should establish relationships with universities in the area of research.
  • Law enforcement should store data digitally whenever possible.
  • Police analysts should include the citizenry as one of the many clients they serve.
  • Law enforcement agencies should invest in computer resources capable of performing advanced analytical techniques.
  • Local government agencies should consider the enormous potential of using the latest IT tools.


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London’s Metropolitan Police launches plan to increase public trust

The London Metropolitan Police has released a plan to be developed over the next two years aimed at reducing crime, increasing public trust and providing higher standards of service quality.

A New Met for London 2023-2025 is the product of more than 10,000 police interactions with Londoners. The document represents what citizens have said about their priorities in the area of security.

Through the London Metropolitan Police website, they present A New Met for London for communities to get to know their local officers, help them shape their policing priorities and work with them to try to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour. And since the implementation of this plan, when victims ask the police for help, they are sufficiently satisfied with the response so far.

The so-called A New Met for London details the priority areas on which this plan will focus, aimed at ensuring that Londoners receive a quality service through more effective policing. It focuses on three areas of reform:

The fight against community crime is based on how crime is reduced, public trust is restored and the link between those in uniforms and the communities is re-established. The plan aims to place more community policing officers and support officers in local neighbourhoods to ensure that the priorities of Londoners are met.

Working with citizens to better fight crime and anti-social behaviour, bringing together all of the Met’s specialised resources to make a difference in communities with higher crime and lower trust.

Cultural change must be provided to the entire Met to embed the values of policing by consent and build a strong culture centred around delivering for London, maintaining high standards of service quality and also learning from others. The idea is to become a police service that does not discriminate – that combats racism, misogyny and homophobia – and better reflects the diversity of the city they serve.

Fixing the foundations of the police organisation is the best way to help Londoners to succeed. Better organising and deploying the police and ensuring the delivery and training tools, equipment and utilities they need to reduce crime. It is necessary to match the best organisations in the use of the data and technology they need to use their skills accurately, while maintaining trust and high standards.

The launch of the plan should see a reset in the way London’s police interact with communities, with a focus on how the A New Met for London plan will be rolled out at the local level. The organisation has also committed to reviewing the steps being taken to ensure that the progress of the proposed changes is clear.

The plan, as well as a more summarised compilation, can be found on the Metropolitan Police website.


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Major operation in Europe against an Albanian drug trafficking network

With the assistance of Eurojust and Europol, the judicial and law enforcement authorities in Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands collaborated to dismantle a drug trafficking network primarily composed of Albanian nationals. During a joint action, 35 suspects were arrested and 51 apartments and premises were searched in the countries involved. More than 600 police officers participated in the operation, in which Eurojust assisted the different authorities in setting up and financing a joint investigation team on the case.

The criminal network is believed to be responsible for the extensive trafficking of cocaine and cannabis from South America to Europe, as well as its subsequent distribution throughout the European Union. It is also known for the use of violence, including episodes of torture and kidnapping for extortion.

The criminals were able to draw on significant economic resources allegedly obtained from previous drug trafficking activities. The network operated multiple logistical bases where they stored the illicit substances and the proceeds from their criminal activities, providing meeting locations for the members of the group. They also owned a large fleet of vehicles equipped with sophisticated hidden compartments, cell phones with encrypted text messaging applications and other utilities.

Based on the investigation findings, the criminal network carried out at least 36 imports totalling a tonne of cocaine and a tonne of hashish between the months of March 2020 and June 2021. These substances would have generated more than 1 billion euros in the distribution market. Over 1 million euros in cash was also seized during the investigation.

The proceeds of the crime were divided among the network members based on their individual responsibilities. In Germany, some suspects owned a luxury restaurant, a bar and a real estate agency that were allegedly used to launder drug money.

The case was opened at Eurojust in September 2021 at the request of the German authorities. In July 2022, a coordination strategy was set up between German and Italian authorities with the support of Eurojust. The Agency organised two coordination meetings to facilitate judicial cooperation and prepare its joint action day.

The European Serious and Organised Crime Centre has been actively assisting the case since late 2020. During this period, it has exchanged over 250 secure messages with the relevant authorities involved. Extensive analytical support enabled the identification of key targets and mapping of their criminal activities around the world. Europol organised several operational meetings, both at its headquarters in The Hague and abroad. In addition, two Europol officers were on the ground in Germany and Italy during the action day to support the authorities with their investigative measures.

During the day of action, a secure communication platform was also set up by Europol to enable the exchange of tactical information in real time between the various police authorities involved.

The research and organisation of the joint action day was supported by the @ON Network, funded by the European Union (Internal Security Fund Project ISF4@ON) and led by the Italian Antimafia Investigation Directorate (DIA).


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Public trust in Canada’s police declines due to increasing militarisation of the force

As reported in June by Policing Insight, the website specialising in the field of security, University of Waterloo doctoral student Tandeep Sidhu reveals that Canadian society’s trust in its police is steadily declining.

One of the main causes according to the researcher is the persistent militarisation of the police. For example, police tactical response unit vehicles using the latest high-tech equipment share all sorts of similarities with military vehicles.

Along these lines, several police investigators find the increasing use of these tactical units in incidents that are considered routine or commonplace to be disproportionate. An example would be the use of these teams in incidents involving people with mental health problems. In late 2020, a retired Mississauga resident was shot and killed by police during a mental health crisis. The intervention was carried out by the Peel Regional Police Tactical and Rescue Unit.

It is worth mentioning that the interactions between tactical units and citizens often end up in violent confrontations. These teams base their actions on military-style weapons, such as assault rifles, stun grenades, battering rams and other specialised equipment similar to that used by the military.

According to Sidhu’s research, Toronto’s Emergency Task Force (EFT) began adopting equipment very similar to Canadian Armed Forces infantry and U.S. Special Forces troops in 2016. The author finds it worrying that law enforcement, which should be guarantors of the preservation of people’s rights and lives, adopt attitudes and equipment belonging to units specialised in fighting wars.

This increased militarisation means that police units are using more and more military technology and tactics on the civilian population. Tactical police units are often involved in raids at night or in the early hours of the morning, when family members or children are also at home.

Tandeep Sidhu believes that the trauma caused by the actions of these police units in cases of mistaken residences or encounters with people who are not involved in criminal activities cannot be underestimated. Some citizens interviewed by the doctoral candidate report having suffered from nightmares, insomnia, or being in a state of constant hypervigilance.

Equipping the police as if they were military units tasked with fighting wars undermines public confidence in the police, mars the very communities the police purport to serve, and moves away from community-based policing models.

By adopting military technology and tactics, the police treat cities and communities as if they were war scenes and civilians as enemies. The implicit message of this militarised equipment is that the civilian population is a threat and war tactics are needed to respond.

Like other police practices, the use of tactical units disproportionately affects racialised people, those living with mental illness, and those from economically marginalised communities.

Tactical officers have also been deployed in response to Indigenous movements over land rights. This illustrates the police’s extensive dependence on heavily militarised reactions across various situations beyond criminal incidents.


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Police actions involving naked people can lead to sudden deaths

Reports documenting citizens killed after police contact often include cases of individuals being restrained, but for anyone suffering from Acute Behavioural Disturbance (ABD), this approach can prove fatal.

Former Kent Police Sergeant Darren Moor describes in Policinginsight the key indicators of ABD and the steps that officers can take to ensure that medical support is available to the individual and what to do if police restraint is unavoidable.

Approximately 10% of cases of ABD, also known as ‘excited delirium’, result in sudden death, and the officer involved in this situation is likely to spend the next few years of their life reviewing their actions with the coroner in response to this tragedy.

ABD usually develops from chronic drug use or severe mental illness. The police officer may be sent to an incident of someone acting strangely. It could be described as an aggressive or violent individual, perhaps showing extreme agitation and physical exertion or, at the other end of the scale, simply being erratic.

Being naked, along with being warm to the touch and profuse sweating, are classic signs of ABD. Other indicators, according to the School of Emergency Medicine, would include:

  • Extremely aggressive or violent behaviour.
  • Excessive force and continuing to fight despite restraint.
  • Insensitivity to pain.
  • Acute psychosis, with fear of imminent death.
  • Constant physical activity, with no sign of fatigue.
  • Abnormally rapid breathing.
  • Heart rate greater than 100 beats per minute.
  • Hyperthermia – overheating (this is why they take off their clothes).

With ABD, the person’s heart rate is much faster than it should be, so much so that they are at risk of death if not treated as a medical emergency, and this is the main message the author of this study wants to convey.

As soon as an officer is suspected of being sent to an ABD incident, and this suspicion may arise simply from sensing that someone is naked and erratic, it should be declared via radio as such and explained to the operator that this is a medical emergency, where it is possible that the doctor may need to give tranquillisers before they could go into cardiac arrest, so an ambulance may also be needed to assist with informed care on what to expect.

The aim of the responding officers during this stage is to buy time until medical assistance arrives. The aim is to orchestrate it so that there is no practical police intervention until there is someone with the right skills and who is available to deal with the medical aspect, should it all go wrong. And there is a good chance it could all go wrong.

In the author’s experience, some ambulance professionals and operators are unfamiliar with ABD. They may feel that what the police are asking them to attend to is a much smaller incident than it really is.

The police control room operator may also be unfamiliar with the problem, and this is where one of those communication gap scenarios develops that can lead to tragedy.


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New report on relationship between Police Scotland and LGBTQI+ community

How is the relationship between Police Scotland and the LGBTQI+ community? The report answering this question is part of a study that was funded by the Scottish Institute for Policing Research (SIPR) as part of the Seldom Heard Voices project designed to provide care for often discriminated communities. These “seldom-heard voices” refer to groups or communities that may be less likely to engage with police for various reasons, such as race, religion, sexuality, disability, or age. In the case of this study, the authors were interested in youth identifying within the LGBTQI+ community and with the additional intersectional criteria of having care experience.

The study adopted a critical-interrogative approach that sought to examine the issue of policing in relation to seldom-heard voices through three avenues of inquiry. The first analysed the overall strategic approach of Police Scotland in terms of policing within various communities. This is a key document for publicly communicating Police Scotland’s overall strategic intent for community-based policing. Therefore, the way in which the report is rhetorically constructed is important to convey the commitment to engage with different sectors of society.

The second research modality was to examine material from police recruit training lessons on the topic of dealing with diverse groups. The objective of the SIPR was to ascertain the nature of what is studied during recruit training and to explore the underlying basis of what is taught in terms of prevailing concepts and ideologies.

The third avenue of the research was to explore what young people say about their experience of coming into contact with police officers. The aim was to establish whether the strategic direction of the Police Scotland’s approach to community policing and the training given to recruits to engage with various groups was reflected in young people, some of whom identified as belonging to the LGBTQI+ community.

The study concludes with a series of recommendations, in which it calls for the overall strategic direction of the police in terms of contact with various groups to be explicitly based on a model of new public governance that recognises and promotes modern policing for the public good. This could entail continuing professional development training based on real-life contexts and associated understanding of the changing nature of society and the role of modern policing.

SIPR recommends that Police Scotland’s approach to police recruit training on inclusion and diversity should focus on real-life hate crime, with respect to types of abuse directed at particular groups. This could involve experienced officers sharing with recruits in training cases on how to deal with these crimes and the difficulties involved in charging offenders.

They also recommend that the approach to policing LGBTQI+ youth should recognise their distrust of police officers regarding boundary issues in interventions. This could involve the adoption of empathetic policing as a viable solution to this problem through further research into how police officers can successfully work with youth to create a safer and more tolerant society.

Finally, they recommend that police officers recognise intersectionality in dealing with diverse groups, especially those with experience in care. A demonstration of this recognition would be to act as a role model by declaring that the care experience is a protected characteristic when it comes to policing in Scotland.


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Police contact with the public: people, technology and public confidence in the UK

Last February, independent police consultant Nick Gargan presented a study at a conference organised by Cityforum, a policy advisory and strategic development organisation. In this area, the UK’s leading police chiefs, suppliers and academics met and exchanged ideas on transforming the public contact of the police. Gargan reflected on key issues in the police public service, how to address public expectations, the increasing shift to digital channels, options for improvement in service delivery, and the fact that the entire police-public contact system is under great pressure.

Previously, police forces in the UK used to gear up for a spectacular night with an extraordinary demand for services once a year, with some 100,000 calls on New Year’s Eve alone. Now, for many forces, this extraordinary demand is a standard, sometimes daily, reality.

Each police force has its own story to tell, but the overall pattern shows public contact demand, which is 20-25% above pre-pandemic levels. And it is increasing by approximately 7% per year. Something is definitely off-balance.

Of the 350 individual rating judgements that have been issued, 30% rated the performance of the police force as “needing improvement” or simply “inadequate”. Less than half were better than adequate.

And the most problematic performance area of all? “Response to the public”. The first stage of most citizens’ contact with the police is likely to be the weakest and least satisfactory.

These challenges occur despite efforts to keep the system up and running. There have been successive waves of reforms and innovations regarding police contact management. But there is a difference between heroically facing an unwinnable challenge and winning. “Polishing the problem” no longer works.

The United Kingdom recorded more than 35 million emergencies in 2022. And the number continues to grow. Violent crime is on the rise: sex crimes increased by one third in 2022 and homicides by one quarter.

New types of emergencies are occurring; forest fires, hurricanes and floods have led to an eight-fold increase in natural disasters over the past 40 years. Medical emergencies are also on the rise: there were more than 16 million visits to Accident & Emergency departments in 2022. And population changes will continue to fuel demand: by 2050 the UK’s over-65 population will have increased by 25%.

Having officers come to the street to answer the phones may be unpleasant, but it is also unavoidable if there is a 37% vacancy rate. Increasing staff attrition rates only serves to exacerbate the challenge.

In the face of this rapid increase in current and future demand are resourcing challenges. Even recruiting at current establishment levels would undoubtedly be insufficient, but many forces struggle to manage it in the current lobar climate, especially in the south-east of the country.

Fewer staff are asked to deal with increasingly complex demand and to manage the deployments of a less experienced workforce using technology that, in many places, is in dire need of modernisation.

Short-term measures are needed to fill hiring gaps and even increase the workforce, but ultimately it is likely to be as futile as building more lanes on the M25 motorway: it may look like you are doing something purposeful but, in reality, that is unlikely. The problem needs to be solved.


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Largest drug trafficking criminal organisation in the Balkans is busted

Thirty-five coordinated simultaneous house searches were carried out in Serbia and the Netherlands in early May 2023, targeting both the leaders of the cartel and the drug distribution infrastructure. Seven other members of this criminal organisation had been arrested in Belgium in 2021. Two people were previously arrested for other crimes in Serbia and Peru, while another suspect was arrested in the Netherlands on 8th May of this year.

In total, 23 people have been arrested in this international police operation, including the three leaders of the criminal organisation, considered by Europol as high-value targets.

As a result of the searches, a significant amount of incriminating material was seized, such as: 15 high-end cars, jewellery and luxury watches worth an estimated 2 million euros and almost 3 million euros in cash, weapons and explosives, including 2 sniper rifles, 3 automatic rifles, guns, silencers, 24 detonator capsules and 5 devices for remote initiation of detonators, 13 packs of plastic explosives and several hundred rounds of ammunition.

This cross-border operation is the result of intelligence development within the framework of the Europol operational task force investigating the use of the Sky ECC encrypted communication platform, which has been removed since March 2021.

Serbia was able to identify key targets on its territory and trace their criminal activities worldwide, in cooperation with France, Belgium and the Netherlands, and with the support of Europol’s Drugs Unit.

This criminal organisation is believed to be behind shipments of several tonnes of cocaine that arrived in Europe directly from Colombia, Brazil and Ecuador, or by transiting through logistical infrastructures in West Africa.

This criminal gang was known in the criminal realm for its extreme violence and for its constant involvement in high-end robberies. One of the targets arrested in Serbia was a former leader of the notorious Pink Panther criminal group.

Thanks to the analysis of Sky ECC data, at least seven tonnes of cocaine seized at European ports in 2020 were linked to this cartel, including: 700 kilos of cocaine seized in Rotterdam, Netherlands; 1.2 tonnes of cocaine seized in Hasselt, Belgium; and 5 tonnes of cocaine seized in Aruba, Netherlands Antilles.

The crime bosses, arrested in Belgrade as part of this operation, were the largest cocaine traffickers in the Western Balkans identified as part of ongoing analysis work conducted on Sky ECC data.

The recent removal of three encrypted communication tools used by criminals, such as Encrochat, Sky ECC and Anom, showed the prevalence of Balkan criminals in the global cocaine trade and organised crime activities.

To respond to this threat, Europol created the operational task force called the ‘Balkan Cartel’ and brought together countries in Europe and around the world to effectively attack this threat originating from this region. This action day will be the result of this operational task force.

In addition, Europol has been provided with continuous analysis and development in the field of intelligence to support field researchers. Two Europol staff members were also dispatched to Belgrade to support the Serbian authorities with their investigative measures during this day of action.

Eurojust enabled judicial cooperation between the countries involved in the investigation.


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