Many police departments have had to compensate for shrinking numbers as officers are called to military duty.
The call-up of military reservists for duty in Afghanistan, for homeland security, and to prepare for a possible war against Iraq has strained police and sheriff departments nationwide.
The Washington D.C.-based Polie Executive Research Forum says 44 percent of 976 law enforcement agencies it surveyed between September and November reported losing personnel to reservist duty.
To make up for missing officers, sheriffs and police chiefs have been forced to pay more overtime, transfer officers to ensure essential services are covered, borrow officers from other agencies, and speed up plans to put volunteers on the streets.
"It's not a problem that has a really easy answer," said Jim Pasco, executive director of the National Fraternal Order of Police.