EMPLOYEE DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMS
John L. Pape, Chief of Police
Weslaco, Texas, Police Department
Police administrators of small law enforcement agencies face
limited financial resources. An area often overlooked as having
can be fiscally devastating. One option is for administrators to
consider using a well-structured employee development program to
manage employee turnover effectively.
When a law enforcement agency experiences high employee
turnover, it must then bear the expense of recruiting, testing,
easily lead to acute problems, such as manpower shortages, which
usually must be compensated for with overtime expense. The
and a loss of overall effectiveness and safety. As a result, the
likely to make serious mistakes due to fatigue.
Unfortunately, police administrators have often taken the
And, many administrators of smaller agencies believe that they
cannot compete with larger ones that are able to offer better pay
These administrators traditionally accept the fact that their
most talented officers will be drawn to larger agencies after a
year or two. This, in turn, causes them to possibly reject
capable applicants because of their anticipated short tenure with
In accepting this role as a stepping stone to larger
Additionally, the level of service can suffer due to the lack of
experienced officers, leading to possible problems in public
The traditional solution to this problem is to increase pay
and benefits for officers to compete with larger departments.
Unfortunately, most smaller communities do not have the necessary
financial resources. In addition, even with reasonably
competitive pay and benefits, an officer who is not allowed to
experience personal and professional growth may begin to look
for an agency with greater opportunities.
What motivates employees to do their jobs to the best of
their abilities, or in this case, to remain with a particular
be plotted on a hierarchy that begins with the most basic needs
and progresses to the most complex. This process toward
* Physiological needs--need for survival, food, shelter;
* Safety needs--need for security and absence of threat;
* Affiliation needs--need for close, affectionate
* Achievement and esteem--need to achieve goals and
* Self-actualization--need to develop skills and abilities
to the maximum. (1)
In simplest terms, this means reaching one's greatest
terms of providing sufficient pay and benefits to attract and
and motivation do not stop there.
Douglas McGregor evaluated Maslow's hierarchy of needs in
terms of employment and introduced the relationship between needs
and work to modern management. According to McGregor, Maslow's
concepts relate to work as follows:
* Physiological--employee needs to perform the job to
retain the position and receive pay;
* Safety--employee needs and desires job security;
* Affiliation--employee needs to achieve acceptance within
a work group. This relates to productivity in that an
employee's output will generally conform to the group's
performance standard as a means of gaining acceptance;
* Achievement/Esteem--employee seeks opportunities to
achieve, be recognized and to advance; and,
* Self-actualization--employee is given the opportunity to
meet challenges that are personally meaningful. (2)
While the traditional incentives of money and benefits may
These upper levels are the levels that the most highly motivated
employees are attempting to achieve, and they are also the levels
least likely to be satisfied in agencies with no employee
For smaller agencies the key to resolving excessive
employee turnover may be to offer a structured employee
quality of service.
Many police departments tend to view motivation simply in
terms of providing sufficient pay and benefits to attract and
lower-ranking police officer, they do not promote superior
of higher-ranking officers.
Furthermore, most people need to be recognized for their
efforts and want to do a good job because it helps to satisfy
their need to feel worthwhile. However, when obstacles are
the key is to structure an educational development program to
attract highly motivated applicants and to help employees fulfill
needs traditionally overlooked. And, while employees may
eventually move into other agencies, the program helps to ensure
that during their tenure, officers will be more motivated and
The employee development program can be as extensive as the
administrator wishes, but it must incorporate at least the
* Implementation of high professional standards
* A strong reward/reinforcement plan
* An educational incentive plan, and
* A professional development plan.
High Professional Standards
High professional standards are vital to an employee
attract the more highly qualified and more motivated individual.
Agencies must reflect a sufficient degree of professionalism for
employees to take pride in their jobs. This process begins with a
dentifying the most qualified applicants.
Further, a professional approach to policing includes the
vital, as is a comprehensive and fair disciplinary system.
Training and management procedures must also adhere to the
The second point of the employee development program
nvolves a strong reward/reinforcement system. Too often,
management only doles out disciplinary action and neglects to
This recognition program can be as simple or as elaborate as
the department administrator wishes. For example, commendable
acts of a lesser nature can be acknowledged through letters of
commendation. For more noteworthy acts, departmental
certificates of commendation can be issued. For the most
noteworthy acts, police recognition medals or ribbons can be
awarded to deserving personnel. Criteria for various police
awards can be established on a departmental basis. Additionally,
the local media should be notified and the officer publicly
Educational Incentive Plan
The third, and most important, facet of an employee
making that officer a more productive and effective member of
the department. It also naturally attracts applicants who want
to pursue higher education. Obviously, the officer who desires
to any department. And, by encouraging educational development,
an agency can ensure the officer's retention at least until
completion of college. Normally, it will take an officer 5 to 8
years to complete a baccalaureate degree program, depending on
the course load the officer carries.
An educational incentive plan could also include a pay
ncentive pay scale can be adjusted to the needs of the
ndividual department. And, to ensure that the semester hours
only those hours that meet a set quality point average.
Compared to across-the-board pay raises, an incentive plan can
be substantially less expensive.
Under the tuition reimbursement portion of the plan,
officers enroll in the course(s) at an accredited institution at
their own expense. After successfully completing the course(s),
officers who verify completion would be appropriately reimbursed.
As with the incentive pay scale, an agency may wish to reimburse
only those course(s) completed with a grade of ``C'' or better.
Also, limiting the number of reimbursable hours per semester
Work schedules should be structured to allow employees to
attend classes. This can be accomplished by rotating shifts in
conjunction with local university semesters. While an occasional
conflict may arise, they can usually be easily resolved.
An educational incentive plan restructures the pay scale and
By implementing such a plan, an agency benefits from better
educated, highly motivated, and personally fulfilled employees.
For those employees seeking personal fulfillment from
employees are not offered sufficient opportunities for
assignments, patrol enhancement techniques, and training
opportunities can be initiated. The number of officers involved
at a given time, and the frequency of assignment rotation, can
be tailored to a particular department's needs.
Rotating assignments can be as simple as assigning a patrol
officer to work in another assignment for a temporary period of
time. After completing the temporary duty, the patrol officer
temporary assignments also allow administrators to evaluate the
employee's performance in the temporary position for possible
later consideration for permanent assignments.
Patrol enhancement is another method that can stimulate and
allowing an officer to answer the initial call, conduct the
nvestigation, file the charges, obtain the arrest warrant, and
arrest the perpetrator without the assistance of another officer.
as departments grow, they tend to become more specialized. This
lets officers know that they are vital players in the
any agency, the key to patrol enhancement is for the
administrator to view patrol officers as vital resources.
A final step in an agency's professional development
Many times, training opportunities end with the basic academy or
the fulfillment of State-mandated minimums. Even so, an agency
can offer a variety of opportunities for professional training.
t can use the resources of regional police academies, technical
training centers, and even larger neighboring police
the administrator should allow as many officers as possible to
training on their own time is for an agency to consider paying
for meals and providing transportation. What is important is
that officers not be discouraged from developing themselves
THE MERCEDES POLICE EXPERIENCE
In 1986, an employee development program was a major factor
n the departmental reorganization of the Mercedes, Texas, Police
Department. The department is comprised of 25 officers serving a
municipality of approximately 14,000 persons.
The first step of the reorganization was to establish high
an immediate marked improvement, and public confidence increased.
Patrol enhancement in the form of limited follow-up
Officers were extremely receptive to these duties and soon began
to suggest that more assignments be added to the patrol
enhancement program. The public was also quick to note the
officers' increased involvement.
The department then initiated a policy requiring a minimum
of 40 hours inservice training per year per officer. In
addition, a wide variety of training was offered to police
each officer had achieved an average of 96 hours of training. By
the end of 1987, this average increased to 109 hours of training
Prior to implementing the educational incentive plan, only
two officers had any college-level education, only one had an
associate's degree in law enforcement from a community college,
and one officer was attending college. Within the first year of
the program, 6 officers earned college credits, and 10 were
actively enrolled in college courses. In addition, recruiting
efforts attracted three officers with an average of 2 years'
college experience, all of whom indicated that they were
attracted to the department because it would allow them to
continue their education.
Subsequent recruiting efforts also resulted in applicants
candidates for employment. In addition, prior to the
mplementation of the employee development program, the agency's
turnover rate was 38 percent. In the 24-month period following
the full implementation of the employee development program, the
turnover rate decreased to 7 percent. (3) This reduction in the
turnover rate resulted in an estimated budgetary savings of at
A properly structured and managed employee development
to appeal to highly motivated individuals, providing them with
opportunities to satisfy their needs for esteem and
contribute to the overall mission of the organization, a police
This job satisfaction will translate into improved morale,
the community. This program will also significantly reduce
employee turnover within the smaller agency which, in turn,
Departments should realize that the initial expense of
mplementing an employee development program is minimal when
compared to the benefits it can offer to both the law enforcement
agency and the officer. But, most importantly, as a result of
the program, employees experience professional growth and
(1) Abraham H. Maslow, Motivation and Personality (New York:
Harper and Row Company, 1954).
(2) Douglas McGregor, The Human Side of Enterprise (New York:
Viking Press, Inc., 1971).
(3) An annual turnover rate of 5 to 15 percent is generally
considered to be within the acceptable range for a fully
Administration (New York: McGraw-Hill Publishing, 1977).