Nationwide Police Departments are Struggling to Retain and Recruit Officers

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Currents News Staff

It’s been difficult for police officers all over the country, with two officer funerals in less than a week in New York, and another shot while off duty.

In Virginia, two campus officers were killed after getting shot on the job.

The dangers of policing are just one of several reasons why departments across the country are facing staffing shortages.

“I’ve never seen the morale so low. I’ve never seen the ranks so low. I’ve never seen the level of violence that we’re seeing now,” said John McNesby, the President of the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police

Tyrone Dennis, a Retired Atlanta Police Officer added “Basically, we’re one bullet away from death and one mistake away from indicting.”

Chuck Wexler is the Head of Police Executive Research Forum and he said, “So less people want to become cops and more cops wanting to leave the job earlier.”

Durham Police Chief Patrice Andrews routinely patrols her city and knows firsthand the impact of officer shortages.

“The 911 calls don’t stop, so you know people are still having emergencies. The emergencies don’t stop, and certainly the emergencies don’t care if, you know, you are sixty percent staffed or below, and the expectation is that we continue the level of service that we’ve always done,” said Andrews.

Maintaining that level of service is difficult when you are down ninety officers and constantly battling against COVID and negative perceptions of law enforcement, along with low wages.

“They’ve got to be able to, to support their families. You know, we have officers that can’t even qualify for apartments because their, their income doesn’t match up with what the apartments require,” said Andrews

For decorated officers like newly retired Atlanta Police Officer Tyrone Dennis, his pay didn’t keep up with his career.

“It would be foolish for me to stay for 48,000 when I have a wife and three kids to feed. With 48,000, I can almost, in a family with three kids, I can almost qualify for public assistance,” said Dennis.

In Seattle, 356 of more than 1,300 officers have left the police force over the last two years.

In Austin, they’re short 117 officer, fifteen percent less than what the force could be.

In Phoenix, 411 officers, thirteen percent of their force.

And in Philadelphia, that department is short some 440 officers.

And beat officers are feeling the pressure.

McNesby says even finding people to apply has never been tougher.

Just last week we had a recruitment assessment. They were invited to come in for the initial assessment. We had 600 people that were invited. Just shy of 200 showed up, and out of those 200, only 26 walked away, moving on to the next step.”

Despite the challenges, there are still stand-out recruits who are eager to join the force.

Allen Taylor is an Atlanta Police Cadet and he said, “I want to be a change in the community. I want to uplift the community and be a positive role model.”

The typical police academy takes about eight months to finish, meaning it will take years to fill the open jobs at the departments across the country.