Numerous police departments around the country are desperately losing manpower with decreasing numbers of officers and recruits. Law enforcement is becoming less of a desirable career choice due to diminishing pay, high risk, and of course a recent bad rap — a trend that could put public safety at risk, say policing experts.
The current shortage afflicts police forces from large metropolitan hubs to rural towns, reports NBC.
"Departments are struggling to find not only interested, but interested and qualified, candidates to join the force," said Jim Burch, vice president of the Police Foundation. "With everything happening around policing from salary to criticism, the question many people are asking is 'is it worth it?'"
A blossoming job market means more career choices, said Darrel Stephens, executive director of the Major Cities Chiefs Association. Police departments can't always keep up with perks other professions in the private sector may offer, he said. "Salary and benefits have declined in many departments," he said.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics puts the growth rate for "Police and Detectives" as "slower than average" at 4 percent with the average growth rate at 7 percent for other professions. The bottom tenth-percentile for an officer's salary is $33,430, according to 2015 federal data.
Data on the extent of the shortage is limited to individual departments. There is no national, centralized data on police recruits or department numbers, said Nelson Lim, executive director of the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania. "The only way to find out is when individual departments release information. Otherwise nobody collects this information," he added.