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Recruitment and Retention Study Series: Sworn Sheriffs' Personnel

NCJ Number
Douglas L. Yearwood
Date Published
April 2003
28 pages
This report examines the issue of recruitment and retention among North Carolina’s public safety agencies, specifically sworn sheriffs’ personnel.
In the summer of 2000, a joint planning retreat was held by the Governor’s Crime Commission, the North Carolina Criminal Justice Education and Training Standards Commission, and the North Carolina Sheriff’s Education and Training Standards Commission identifying and discussing the major emerging issues in the State’s criminal justice system and its public safety personnel. As a result, a study team was comprised that determined that several smaller studies targeted the unique attributes and features associated with recruiting and retaining sworn police personnel, sworn sheriff’s office personnel, detention officers, and public safety telecommunications officials. This report is one in a series which examines the issue of recruitment and retention among North Carolina’s public safety agencies with a specific focus on sworn sheriffs’ personnel. A 3-part, 22-item survey was developed addressing the issue of recruiting law enforcement personnel within the sheriff’s office, specifically recruitment strategies and techniques, the number of applicants, and the extent to which the responding agency had a backlog or waiting list of potential candidates; the attrition and retention of detention officers, specifically the agency’s turnover and vacancy rates and how these rates varied over the past 3 years; and agency’s comment and/or suggestions regarding all recruitment and retention issues. A total of 49 surveys were returned with a response rate of 61.3 percent. Result highlights include: (1) 56 percent of the respondents described their recruitment strategy as being neutral; (2) most frequently employed techniques were word of mouth, community college system, and employing officers from existing auxiliary or reserve force; (3) recruitment techniques closely mirrored the extent to which agencies used the various techniques with the most frequently used methods; (4) over half currently have a waiting list or backlog of qualified officers; (5) the number of applicants, per position, ranged from 0 to 25 with a statewide average of 6.2 applicants per vacant position; (6) turnover rates ranged from 0 to 60 percent with an average rate of 12.7 percent; (7) the most popular retention strategy was holding and using a vigorous and fair promotion strategy; and (8) budget restrictions was the most frequently discussed factor in explaining why officers left the department. Five recommendations are presented in the recruitment and retention of sworn sheriffs’ officers: (1) increase in current recruitment programs; (2) examine current screening procedures and strengthen and improve the screening process; (3) explore options for retaining officers beyond the 28-month critical mark; (4) examine other non-financial means for retaining deputies and give equal weight; and (5) further assessment of lateral transfers within the law enforcement community. Tables, charts, and graphs