Nationwide, interest in becoming a police officer is down significantly. In Nashville, job applications dropped from 4,700 in 2010 to 1,900 last year. In Seattle, applications have declined by nearly 50 percent in a department where the starting salary is $79,000. Even the FBI had a sharp drop, from 21,000 applications per year to 13,000 last year, before a new marketing campaign brought an upswing.
And retaining officers once they’ve joined is getting harder, too. In a Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) survey of nearly 400 police departments, 29 percent of those who left their police job voluntarily had been on the force less than a year, and an additional 40 percent had been on the job less than five years, the Washington Post reports.
At a PERF gathering in Washington on Tuesday of police chiefs and commanders from across the country, many attributed their declining numbers to a diminished perception of police in the years after the shooting and unrest in Ferguson, Mo., in 2014 and an increase in public and media scrutiny of police made possible by technology and social media.
“There’s an increased potential for officers to be criminally liable for making a good-faith mistake,” said Terry Sult, the police chief in Hampton, Va. “We’re seeing a lot more media coverage of officers being prosecuted, and that weighs heavily on a lot of officers' hearts. ... That’s a stressor on whether I want to stay in this position or not.”