MPD Chief Addresses National Crisis Of Recruiting, Retaining Police Officers

MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) – The Mobile Police Department says a national crisis of recruiting and retention difficulties hits home.

“We’re experiencing the national crisis that exists as it relates to recruiting,” said Chief Lawrence Battiste.

He tells News 5 says a big part of the struggle involves bringing in and keeping quality applicants.

“We don’t want someone we had to lower the bar for, and six months into their training, or a year into their training, we have to let them go because they’re not meeting the standards,” said Battiste. “Or they won’t follow through with the standards, and we knew that to begin with.”

Battiste claims the department still has enough officers to fight violent crime in Mobile.

“I think we’re keeping up with crime trends,” he said. “If you ask me if we had more officers, could we be more proactive? Yes we could. We could address the window dressing stuff like speeding motorists and some of those things, things you could call quality of life issues for many communities.”

Below is the letter Mobile Police issued on the topic.

The Mobile Police Department is confronting the national crisis of recruitment and retention of police officers. It’s one of many urban police departments across the nation affected by a shortage of qualified applicants and at the same time is struggling to retain the funded strength of its workforce due to the fierce competition.

The department completely exhausted its most recent list of 200 applicants, provided by the Mobile County Personnel Board. Of this number of applicants, only 32 met the requirements to begin the next Mobile Police Academy on September 16. The goal was to start a class of 45. The department is short 13 potential new police officers.

The application process is quite lengthy and takes an average of three months to complete, making recruitment efforts continuous year-round. Regardless of the constant recruiting, there are still not enough applicants in the pool suitable for employment.

Applicants must prove they are both physically and mentally fit and willing to work in a dangerous work environment. Many applicants didn’t qualify due to recent and frequent drug use, or too many traffic violations or criminal offenses. Environmental factors such as the low unemployment rate and the highly competitive paying jobs advertised in the private sector also make it a challenge to recruit police officers. And, media portrayal of police in a negative spotlight has certainly made the profession less attractive.

The city of Mobile has the largest police department and the only police academy in the southern part of the state. As a result, this creates an enormous strain on the Mobile Police Department because officers who are trained here are highly sought after by other surrounding local agencies.

Current recruiting efforts simply don’t keep up with the attrition. The attrition rate last year was 65, with only 50 new officers being hired. So far this year, 47 officers have left the department and a total of 32 new officers have been hired.

In this highly competitive environment, the Mobile Police Department plans to increase its applicant pool by providing a $1,000 referral bonus to any city employee who recruits a police officer applicant. However, the applicant must successfully complete the Mobile Police Academy. The department also plans to recruit officers back into its ranks from other agencies by offering a $5,000 sign-on bonus.

Modern policing and technological advances in law enforcement requires a better-educated applicant for what has traditionally been considered a blue-collar job. For this reason, the department looks to improve the quality of its applicants by offering a sign-on bonus of up to $3,000 for higher education, plus the existing education incentive of up to 15 percent.