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According to an article that recently ran in the Washington Post, more than 80 percent of U.S. law enforcement agencies are having difficulty retaining employees and attracting new recruits.

There are several reasons for the shortage, say officials and researchers: Many former officers have taken positions in the homeland security industry; Other potential recruits who would normally opt for a career in law enforcement have joined the armed forces or are in the National Guard, fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan; those born in the baby boom era are retiring; and the average first-year officer salary of $32,000 is not as attractive to the younger generation, which is better educated and has higher expectations.

To counter these challenges, many municipal police agencies are offering signing bonuses, down payments on houses and extra vacation time to new recruits. Credit rating restrictions and entry standards are also being eased, as are the physical requirements, which previously prevented some female and smaller candidates from being accepted into agencies.

Although the Washington Post article is about law enforcement in general, the implications for campus police departments are direct and significant. Indeed, the point about salaries is particularly troubling.

If the annual $32,000 pay rate for traditional first-year officers is too low, how can campuses compete for qualified recruits in the same employment market when the normal starting salary for sworn campus officers is often thousands of dollars less? And even if a hospital, school or university successfully recruits an officer, what is his or her motivation, besides altruism, for staying?

Yes, there is a wide variety of equipment and outsourced services that can be of tremendous help in stretching an understaffed department. If you’re a regular reader of Campus Safety (CS), you know we frequently cover the latest developments of these markets. Despite the outstanding assistance these solutions provide, however, they can only go so far.

Let’s face it – the best cameras, access control systems, metal detectors, intrusion alarms, guns, less-than-lethal weapons and emergency plans can never take the place of a well-qualified and fully staffed department. Now is the time for those in campus policing to raise public and stakeholder awareness about department resources and salaries.

To help our industry in these efforts, last year CS developed and launched an annual survey to generate reliable statistics about campus police compensation policies. We have begun compiling data for this year’s study to gain further insight into this issue. CS’ survey’s findings, which will be published later this year, will provide police chiefs and security directors with accurate and quantifiable data they can use to further understand this important topic.

But we can’t make this happen without your participation. I urge you to take a few moments to complete our online survey at

It is our hope that the information gleaned from this survey will continue the transformation of our industry. Armed with this survey data, we can help stakeholders outside the campus safety realm to recognize the valuable contribution campus police personnel make to the protection of our nation’s hospitals, schools and universities. We then just might get our hard-working campus police officers some better compensation, leading to improved recruitment and retention.

Robin Hattersley Gray is Executive Editor of Campus Safety Magazine. She can be reached at

For the complete version of this article, please refer to the May/June 2006 issue of Campus Safety Magazine.

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About the Author

robin hattersley headshot

Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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