Lexipol’s third annual Connect User Group Conference is in the books! Connect took place on Oct. 5, 2022, and this year’s theme, “The Power of Community,” was incorporated throughout the sessions. Legal updates, roundtable discussions and expert panels highlighted ways to foster a healthy community of first responders and build stronger relationships within the communities we serve.
While the concept of community was front and center, culture and continuous improvement featured prominently as well. Together, these three themes influence virtually every aspect of life in public safety: operational, administrative and relational. Connect sessions focused on how community, culture and continuous improvement work together to enhance recruitment and retention, employee wellness and community trust.
In Recruitment & Retention
Recruitment and retention are top-of-mind issues for public safety leaders as staffing shortages have seemingly become the “new normal” across the country—and that was reflected in the conversations public safety leaders had at Connect 2022. Generational differences, shifting public opinion and the changing landscape of public safety have created a challenging environment for finding and bringing in new recruits. Several sessions addressed potential solutions to address these challenges—covering everything from top-down culture to marketing efforts.
The conclusion? The best place to recruit is straight from your community. Knowing, being active in and maintaining a good reputation in the community results in a better and truer representation of your community within your department. Engage community members by addressing what matters to them: Host events, be involved and take time to reach out for relationship-building and educational purposes.
This level of community involvement often stems from an agency culture marked by support, accountability and service. The real question is how to create that culture. Key factors mentioned across Connect sessions include leadership, mission, expectations, inclusion and continuous improvement. Leaders must be trained right—in line with the mission of the organization—and properly set expectations for all personnel to achieve the mission. An inclusive environment is created through professionalism and a fundamental understanding that all members bring value to the agency. Today’s recruits want to participate in innovation, making a difference in their place of work and their communities. This type of culture serves to further build your reputation within your community and makes those already within your agency more likely to stick around.
Over the last several years, wellness has become an increasingly prominent issue in public safety. As research continues to emerge about the impact of a career in public safety on physical and mental well-being, agencies have started taking critical steps to address and support wellness. Woven within wellness initiatives are the principles our expert presenters covered in-depth throughout the Connect 2022 conference.
Culture starts with the values of your community.
Wellness doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It requires a community, both internal and external to the agency, of support. One vital way agencies support wellness is through peer support. In discussing the importance of peer support in agency wellness programs, presenters highlighted trust in fellow members as one of the most important factors.
A culture of trust is critical—but in many agencies, culture is one of the first barriers to getting help. Leaders must recognize the cultural stigma that exists around seeking help and work against it by promoting wellness initiatives and ensuring confidentiality and accessibility to critical resources.
Many presenters noted that wellness can play a major role in recruitment and retention efforts as well, helping agencies demonstrate they care about and prioritize the wellbeing of personnel. And remember: Healthy personnel are better able to serve the community. Demonstrating this care involves dedication to continuous improvement: knowing the tools at our disposal, implementing them effectively and encouraging personnel to utilize them.
But the internal community is only one aspect of wellness. Not only does support and encouragement from community members go a long way, but funding can sometimes be a community effort. At Connect, presenters discussed different funding options for public safety wellness programs, highlighting opportunities to tap into resources provided by community members and local businesses.
In Building Trust & Beyond
Building community trust takes effort on the part of your agency. When you have the right people who are a reflection of your community; when you build a culture of excellence, continuous improvement and accountability; and when you support the wellness of your personnel, community trust follows naturally.
Culture starts with the values of your community. These values are confirmed and reinforced by systems that operate throughout your agency. At Connect 2022, policies, procedures, training and accreditation were each highlighted as playing a central role in this process. We must understand how operational excellence and community involvement work together to build trust, improve recruitment and retention, and support wellness. That is the power of community.
The 2022 Connect User Group Conference included 16 sessions featuring public safety experts including keynote speaker Mayor Steve Benjamin, Gordon Graham, Chief Ken Wallentine, Deputy Chief Billy Goldfeder and so many more. If you missed Connect or want to catch up, you can watch the sessions on-demand.