Mandatory Job Rotation Programs

By Travis Ladd, M.S.

A stock image of a group of police officers talking.

Personnel issues in law enforcement agencies consume a lot of executives’ time and consideration. These may include concerns about first- and midline leadership, job performance, intra-agency cohesiveness, personnel development, staff recruitment and retention, and citizen complaints about officers. All have an impact on mission accomplishment.

Department leaders must find ways to minimize and alleviate as many personnel problems as possible. Instituting a mandatory job rotation program (MJRP) — one that is a formal part of organizational policy — is an effective solution where the benefits outweigh potential drawbacks.


The Society of Human Resource Management defines a job rotation program as —

the systematic movement of employees from one job to another within the organization to achieve various human resources objectives such as orienting new employees, training employees, enhancing career development, and preventing job boredom or burnout.1

Agencies can implement an MJRP by creating a policy outlining when and how personnel should be rotated through different organizational assignments. This can differ from one department to the next; therefore, each must decide how the program could be effectively implemented. Leaders have several considerations for each specialized position.

Captain Travis Ladd

Captain Ladd commands the League City, Texas, Police Department’s Operations Bureau and is a graduate of FBI National Academy Session 285.

  • The selection process.
  • Required training.
  • Amount of experience needed in the position to benefit the employee and agency.
  • How to maintain an adequate level of experience in specialized units.

Most departments instituting an MJRP will require personnel to submit transfer requests when a position is about to open. Officers then would undergo a formal selection process before assuming their new organizational roles. Agency policy will outline how long the officer serves in the specialized position — perhaps three years in traffic enforcement or up to five years in criminal investigations.

After the officer’s tenure, other employees could transfer to the unit. The limited specialized positions in most departments and other factors make it less likely that everyone in the organization could always participate in the program.


When considering an MJRP, leaders should recognize the potential benefits.

Enhanced Leadership

Effective leadership is critical to the law enforcement mission and profession. Agencies need leaders who have a global perspective of how the organization operates, interacts, and functions.

MJRPs allow employees to broaden their skill sets and create collaborative networks to prepare them for leadership roles.2 They help ensure qualified individuals with a broader understanding of the department would be promoted. Officers in specialty positions are encouraged to promote because of the time limit in their current role. Then, they bring that experience when they return to serve in various areas, including patrol operations.

Improved Job Performance

Research on job rotation programs showed they have a positive effect on work performance. Employees staying in a specialized position for too long experience boredom, stagnation, and health-related issues. Boredom and stagnation can result in safety concerns, decreased case closure rates, and failure to keep pace with the technological advancements in society. Personnel who have participated in the programs report that new skills learned increased their problem-solving capabilities and allowed them to be more productive and successful at their job.3

Employee burnout is also a health concern affecting job performance and officer wellness. A well-designed MJRP helps revitalize employees and specialized units by allowing motivated personnel with innovative ideas to serve in these parts of the organization.

Enriched Communication Across the Agency

Like other government entities, law enforcement agencies can become compartmentalized and experience sluggish communication. One group in the department may not always know or understand how the others relate to each other and the overall mission. This lack of understanding and institutional knowledge creates the potential for communication breakdowns across the agency.

MJRPs allow employees to be cross-trained when they spend time in specialized units. The combination of this training and the relationships officers make can improve communication throughout the organization.

“Department leaders must find ways to minimize and alleviate as many personnel problems as possible.”

Bolstered Recruitment and Retention

One of the most significant issues facing law enforcement agencies is recruitment and retention. In a 2021 survey, police executives reported an increase in resignations by 18% and retirements by 45% compared with previous years.4 Departments are doing everything possible to recruit new officers and keep the experienced ones on staff. Agencies have limited monetary resources and benefits they can use to entice people to work for them.

This problem is not isolated to law enforcement — it helps to see what other professions and companies do to attract and keep a capable workforce. Research shows retention is noticeably higher for employers that incorporate job rotation programs.5

Employees may leave organizations because they lose interest or see a lack of mobility. Unfortunately, most law enforcement agencies have limited specialized positions, adding to the risk that officers will leave after becoming disinterested or feeling that they will never have another opportunity inside the organization. An MJRP allows officers to work for and look forward to the next opportunity to rotate into specialty positions.


While agencies can benefit from instituting an MJRP, there are also potential drawbacks.

Loss of Experience

One issue for departments implementing an MJRP is the loss of experience in specialized positions. Officers who spent several years in such a position have honed their skills and abilities associated with that role, increasing their competence and organizational efficiency. Many feel losing this experience is too big a detriment to the organization.

While a valid concern, it is debatable whether this is enough reason to forgo instituting an MJRP. Loss of experience occurs anyway due to employees leaving the agency. Law enforcement leaders should implement a succession plan so the institutional knowledge and experience do not disappear when personnel leave specialty positions for any reason. An MJRP can potentially strengthen any succession plan by ensuring that multiple officers inside the department have the knowledge, experience, and abilities to fill any future vacancies.

Increased Time and Expenses for Training

Agencies invest considerable time and resources training officers who move to specialized positions. The training for positions in criminal investigations, fatality crash investigations, K9 handling, and other areas can be a considerable financial burden. It would be even more costly for departments with an MJRP. These agencies must forecast future expenses and implement strategic plans to cover the burden.

“Agencies can implement an MJRP by creating a policy outlining when and how personnel should be rotated through different organizational assignments.”

Departments could minimize expenses by earmarking funds upfront and sending employees to train-the-trainer courses. If agencies develop trainers inside the organization with the knowledge and expertise to teach other officers in specialized subjects, the cost of training new members in a specialized unit would drastically decrease.

Burdensome Process

While planning an MJRP can be burdensome for law enforcement leaders, the typical attrition departments already experience makes filling specialized units with capable employees challenging. Unexpected events happen that cause vacancies; when these openings arise, leaders go through their selection process to fill positions. An MJRP gives managers some idea of when these positions will open, so they will be more prepared.


The law enforcement profession’s most important asset is the people wearing the uniform. Agency administrators must find solutions to help recruit, retain, develop, and grow individuals who will provide the highest level of service to their communities. Unfortunately, this is not a simple task because of increased demands on an already-shrinking workforce combined with budget constraints.

A well-thought-out mandatory job rotation program could be a viable solution to overcome those hurdles. These programs have the potential to attract new candidates, develop current employees, grow future leaders inside the organization, and improve overall performance.

“These programs have the potential to attract new candidates, develop current employees, grow future leaders inside the organization, and improve overall performance.”

Captain Ladd can be reached at


1 “Job Rotation Policy,” Society of Human Resource Management, accessed May 1, 2024,
2 Chuck Leddy, “The Benefits and Challenges of Job Rotation,” Forbes, December 5, 2017,
3 Dayanath Dhanraj and Sanjana Brijball Parumasur, “Perceptions of the Impact of Job Rotation on Employees, Productivity, the Organization and on Job Security,” Corporate Ownership and Control 11, no. 4 (January 2014): 682-691,
4 “Current Issues in Law Enforcement: What Will Departments Face in 2022?” The Link (blog), Columbia Southern University, February 14, 2022,
5 Camilla Pennington, “Rotational Programmes and Retention,”Talenttalks, May 18, 2022,