In the fight for recruitment, the police are turning to targeted ads


Your favorite social network the media platform probably knows more about you than your parents. Our clicks, likes, and tracks reveal patterns of sophisticated algorithms turn into behavioral profiles revealing our political beliefs, sexuality, ethnicity, even our health.

Police recruits are now using these insights to find more job candidates online. The recruits say their jobs were became increasingly difficult In 2021, due to a pandemic and riots across the country following the assassination of George Floyd. WIRED also spoke with digital advertising firms working with the police and army for internet campaigns to increase employment, sometimes relying on the same behavioral profiling tools that platforms use to increase user activity.

“Historically, most of our recruitment efforts have been a personal search where we actually go to schools or fairs or meet organizations,” explains Captain Aaron McCraney, who heads the Employment and Employment Division of the Los Angeles Police Department.

McCraney says he started using LAPD digital marketing company Sensis in the months before the pandemic. The initial focus was on diversity: LAPD is struggling to guess its goals for the employment of women, blacks, and Asian-American candidates.

This can be a problem for the traditional ones network advertising because employers, including the police, cannot target ads to racial or ethnic groups or prevent other groups from seeing the ad. McCraney says the LAPD traditionally works with certain social organizations – for example the NAACP – to help reach target groups. But the pandemic ended almost all offline events, meaning McCraney’s team had to find more women and color candidates without actually targeting women or colored people. He says the ads helped.

“Traditional recruitment doesn’t work,” says Emma Mae, a marketing expert for PoliceApp, an online recruitment agency that works with more than 700 U.S. police departments. Among other things, PoliceApp creates advertising campaigns and assists applicants in preparation. Recently, police administrations came to PoliceApp with interrelated issues: recruitment has decreased, while the reduction in the number of new employees is increasing.

Behavioral and psychosocial targeting is perfected here social media The LAPD is one of many police departments that employ targeting ads based on personality rather than identity.

Police agencies want job advertisements to make the position look benevolent and community-oriented, explains Dallas Thompson, director of accounts at Sensis. The ads reflect (and hopefully attract) service-oriented employees who spend less money, who understand bias, and who have a high tolerance for risk. Sensis crosses the survey data with similar audiences on social media platforms to identify characteristics that police agencies say represent the ideal candidate: respect for authority, awareness of social prejudices, interest in the service, and willingness to compromise in social life for their careers.

As unexpected as the alliance between advertising technology and policing may be, the technology itself is very suitable for organizing users based on their personality. Social media platforms invest huge resources in monitoring user behavior (on-site and off-site) and spotting user responses. They use that information to infer user interests and personalities, creating a familiar feedback loop that leads millions of people to apps like YouTube and Facebook.

Recruiters design ads that reflect these values ​​and place them online. Wendy Koslicki, an assistant professor of criminal justice and criminology at Ball State University, studied hundreds of hours of video on police recruitment. She says the police are fine-tuning the ads to display pictures of the “guards”. To circumvent the restrictions on targeting demographics, agencies include women and people of color in their videos, she says.

The videos, she explains, highlight weapons and rarely show police arresting or driving in cars. Instead, they emphasize community work, with images of officers interacting with minors at community events, patrolling on foot, and giving speeches in classrooms. Koslicki says videos often include “statements like” We are a community-oriented department “or” We appreciate working with different communities, we appreciate that officials live in the communities in which they work. “

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