Having been in law enforcement for 15 years on November 1, 2019 I have seen motivation levels go up and down for a multitude of reasons. Law enforcement can be one of the hardest professions to maintain a high level of motivation across throughout the sworn and unsworn staff.
The first and most often reason that motivation levels drop is pay. Law enforcement isn’t an employer that will generally pay much more than the living wage. Many police departments are unable to pay even the median reported income average of its residents. In my city the median income level is reported at $68,000 per year. Patrol level officers at my agency make less than half of the median income. What my police chief has done to address this issue is to find extra employment opportunities within our jurisdiction to supplement officer’s incomes. Being a rural city these opportunities are few and far between. We typically see extra work with the local school district at football games and other after school activities. We also work uniformed security at local churches. Recently our chief has gotten the city council to provide raises so that will hopefully raise motivation levels among sworn and unsworn personnel and end our reputation as a training agency. Meaning that officers gain the knowledge skills and abilities and then transfer to larger higher paying agencies. So far this has improved motivation levels and has taken the average officer tenure from 2.5 years to 6.8 years at our agency.
Secondly a cause for motivation decreasing is stagnant leadership. Officers tend to become tired of patrol leadership and problems surface and motivation lacks. One way that my agency has addressed this is that once a quarter subordinate officers meet with the police administration and recommend one supervisor to be awarded. Patrol level officers have taken ownership of this process and take this very serious, as if their voices are being heard. This also provides police administration with field level feedback without threat of recourse from any supervisors. Additionally shift rotations with supervisors and patrol officers happen in the opposite rotation. We don’t keep the same supervisors constantly. The patrol rotation happens upward meaning you move from days to evenings to nights, and supervisors rotate down, from nights to evenings and then days. This happens quarterly and keeps officers with fresh leadership keeping motivation levels much higher.
Another way that My police chief keeps motivation raised is he has found areas that each officer excels and keeps that officer seeking and receiving training to strengthen that focus area. For example, I have shown interest and have performed exemplary in traffic enforcement, narcotic interdiction, and DWI enforcement. I am afforded the opportunity each year to improve my skills in my targeted area. In 2018 I received nearly 250 hours of advanced training to continue to grow and improve in my specialty. Some officers have expressed interest in being training officers and receive specialized training throughout the year to improve and grow as training officers. These are just examples of how each officer’s skills are utilized by our police department not only to better the department but to maintain higher motivation levels and to keep officers employed by our department. Each officer has braced their roles and takes ownership in the fact that they have a specific specialty.