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Recruiting officers in the 21st century

The Duluth Police class of new recruits, 2017. (Photo: Duluth Police Department)

Across our nation, recruiting quality candidates for law enforcement is getting more difficult. Law enforcement is a noble profession, offering diverse work experiences and a good living wage and benefits. Yet despite this, it is a challenge to recruit police candidates.  

Today, law enforcement officers face more scrutiny and danger than almost any time in the history of modern day policing. Almost weekly the news features cell phone video or “caught on camera” actions by police which don’t tell the whole story and can incite tremendous public angst towards police. Initial public reaction is fueled by emotion and many times, facts are ignored regardless if officers’ actions are right or wrong. This is not to say some officers don’t tarnish the badge they wear, but the vast majority of women and men in policing perform admirably under tremendous adversity.

At the Duluth Police Department, we are working harder than ever before to do outreach to recruit the best and brightest to do this most important work in our community. We are looking to become more diverse in all parts of our organization. We want more women and people of color to better represent the community we police and serve at all ranks within the department. Our goal is not to merely match the census demographics of Duluth, but surpass it.

To do this, we need to go to the students and not wait for them to come to us. We are engaging in formal mentoring/ intern programs with local colleges. We are commencing a pilot program with the University of Wisconsin-Superior and have a number of adjunct instructors at Fond du Lac Community College. We host a recruitment workshop to invite students and police officers from other agencies to explore the many and diverse career opportunities here.

We have paid positions such as seasonal park rangers, parking monitors, community service officers where we have the good fortune of “test driving” potential police recruits for compatibility with our organizational values and goals before we hire them. Many of our police recruits have come to us through these positions.

In a couple weeks, we will offer a civil service police officer test at the University of Minnesota Duluth where 124 applicants will begin the competitive process to become a Duluth police officer.  The process will include a test, multiple interviews and a psychological, a physical and a background investigation.

So what is it we look for in our candidates who represent the ideal Duluth police officer? We want candidates who possess good critical thinking skills, have excellent interpersonal and communication skills. Courage and integrity is a must.

We’re looking for candidates with life experience who have experienced adversity and have come out the other side stronger and more self-aware. We’re looking for leaders who have a history of ethical decision-making and treating people with kindness, caring and concern as a core value of their character. We want people who volunteer, engage in community and naturally seek to serve others. We are not looking for perfection, with never so much as a slip or fall. Rather, we embrace and value failure, knowing with it, we learn important life lessons about overcoming adversity leading to personal growth.

We work hard to recruit excellent candidates to compete for a position with our proud organization. We value continuous improvement and we will select only those which will move our organization forward. We demand only the best because our responsibility to protect and serve our community is paramount. We are excited about our newest candidate pool and wish each of them the best of luck in the process.

Mike Tusken

Contact Duluth Police Chief Mike Tusken at 730-5020.