Compensation as a Police Candidate Attraction Tool: An Organizational-Level Analysis

Published date01 December 2017
Date01 December 2017
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1177/1098611117713679
Subject MatterArticles
Article
Compensation as
a Police Candidate
Attraction Tool: An
Organizational-Level
Analysis
Matthew J. Giblin
1
and Phillip M. Galli
1
Abstract
In 2008, state and local law enforcement agencies hired 61,000 new full-time sworn
personnel. To develop a sufficient applicant pool, organizations may use a variety of
attraction strategies, including financial inducements, especially when broader factors
lessen the appeal of a job. Using data from the 2007 and 2013 Law Enforcement
Management and Administrative Statistics survey, the present study tests whether
unfavorable contingencies (e.g., high cost of living, rigorous application standards) are
related to officer compensation—pay, supplemental incentives, and reimburse-
ments—within a sample of large metropolitan police agencies. Results are generally
consistent with contingency theory, at least with respect to salaries. Departments
offer higher salaries to offset more rigorous hiring standards, high costs of living, and
other unfavorable contingencies. The implications of the findings for police officer
recruitment are discussed.
Keywords
police compensation, contingency theory, recruitment
Each year, state and local law enforcement agencies across the United States
work to overcome thousands of vacancies in sworn of‌f‌icer positions. In 2008, for
example, the nation’s 16,000 general purpose agencies hired 61,000 of‌f‌icers to f‌ill
1
Department of Criminology & Criminal Justice, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Carbondale, IL,
USA
Corresponding Author:
Matthew J. Giblin, Department of Criminology & Criminal Justice, Mail Code 4504, Southern Illinois
University Carbondale, Carbondale, IL, USA.
Email: mgiblin@siu.edu
Police Quarterly
2017, Vol. 20(4) 397–419
!The Author(s) 2017
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DOI: 10.1177/1098611117713679
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newly authorized positions and those left vacant by resignations, retirements,
dismissals, and other departures (Reaves, 2012). This number is substantial,
representing roughly 9% of all full-time sworn of‌f‌icers, thereby requiring
police departments to devote time and energy toward attracting new recruits.
The goal is to generate a suf‌f‌icient number of qualif‌ied applicants for
departmental consideration. The choice and intensity of attraction strategies
(e.g., recruiters, signing bonuses) is determined, in part, by the number of pos-
itions available (demand for services) relative to the size of the potential appli-
cant pool (supply; Hall & Vanderporten, 1977; Lewin & Keith, 1976; Rynes &
Barber, 1990). Assuming a constant demand for police services, the supply of
prospective of‌f‌icers f‌luctuates based on the perceived appeal of careers in law
enforcement compared with other jobs (Hall & Vanderporten, 1977).
Even when a policing career appears attractive, prospective applicants must
make organizational choice decisions to pursue employment with specif‌ic depart-
ments (Wanous, 1980). Organizations are not equivalent in this regard, with
some characterized by less appealing departmental (e.g., rigorous standards),
labor market (e.g., nonpolice employment), and community (e.g., cost of
living) characteristics that potentially suppress the supply of applicants. Just
as corporations use compensation in order to obtain a ‘‘competitive advantage,’’
police departments may also rely upon f‌inancial inducements to heighten organ-
izational attractiveness, particularly when they are marked by less desirable
factors (Balkin & Gomez-Mejia, 1987, p. 170; Rynes & Barber, 1990).
Although a number of studies have addressed the predictors of police compen-
sation (e.g., Bartel & Lewin 1981; Doerner & Doerner, 2010; Feuille & Delaney,
1986; Wilson et al., 2006), most have concentrated on the benef‌its of collective
bargaining and the constraints imposed by labor shortages. The current study
advances this literature in three ways. First, it examines multiple compensation
indicators including starting salaries, supplemental pay, and reimbursements.
Second, it places compensation within a contemporary theoretical framework
(contingency theory), extending much of the research from the past. Third, the
analysis includes a broader range of theoretically relevant organizational, labor
market, and community predictors.
Literature Review
Recruiting, a practice that involves attracting viable job candidates and selecting
the most qualif‌ied applicants, is an important and ongoing activity within many
organizations (Porter, Lawler, & Hackman, 1975). Wilson, Rostker, and Fan
(2010) described it as part of a broader human resource or personnel manage-
ment function, allowing police organizations to meet their goals of ‘‘achieving
and maintaining the prof‌ile of of‌f‌icers by experience and rank that satisf‌ies
agency needs and of‌f‌icer career aspirations’’ (p. xiii). It is, after all, an organ-
ization’s human capital—its operating core—that delivers its services or
398 Police Quarterly 20(4)

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