After the 1992 riots, the City of LA decided it needed 10,000 police on the streets (I have no idea how they came up with that number, except that it’s sexier than 9,423).  The LA Times reports that officials blame budget cuts which have reduced recruiting campaigns.  Really, as if people interested in police work do not realize that the LAPD is around?  The brass also cites that other jurisdictions offer higher salaries, hence reducing the talent available to work for the LAPD.

I’m sure that that for space reasons the article does not go into all of the LAPD’s recruiting activities.  However, it would have been nice to hear someone in charge say, “Yes, it is a problem, but we’re spending more of our resources on reaching out to returning veterans” or some other ACTIVE method of recruiting.  That they blame the number (and quality) of applicants on a reduction in passive recruiting methods is silly.

Then there is the quality of candidates.  In an era of high unemployment, the department reports lower passing rates during their pre-employment process (which you can read about here).  So, they have turned the trick of getting fewer and lower qualified applicants.  From the article, the personnel department is holding firm in giving up some information that the LAPD wants to “analyze” (read as find ways to water it down so they can fill more cars).  Good for the personnel people for sticking to their, um, guns.

It is important to determine the root cause(s) of problems in hiring.  In this case, everyone seems pretty upfront that it’s a recruitment issue.  Of course, the LAPD’s management and culture don’t always get high marks and in a high cost of living area pay does matter.  But lowering the test standards should not be part of the equation in this instance.  Given all of the challenges and scrutiny it faces, I am going to give the validity of their selection system the benefit of the doubt.  Lowering standards is likely to increase turnover (voluntary and involuntary) and worse.

However, I understand the knee-jerk reaction of, “Hey, we’re not getting enough people in here.  Can’t we lower the test score by just a little to get 10% more people through?”  It seems like an easy and logical fix to those who do not understand the complexities and reasons for setting passing scores.

As a Los Angeles resident and industrial psychologist, I encourage my brethren at the city to keep the recruiters’ feet to fire and maintain the integrity of the validated selection process.  Money is going to be short in the city for the foreseeable future.  Recruitment would be spending their time more wisely looking for better candidates than lower the standards that hire them.

For more information on pre-employment testing, test validation, skills assessment and talent management, please contact Warren at 310 670-4175 or