Agencies Nationwide Coping with Critical Shortage of Officers

The officer shortage is most critical in cities that experienced waves of protests and riots in 2020.

The story is the same in many American cities, officers are retiring, transferring to jurisdictions that are more supportive of law enforcement, and even leaving the profession. The result is that agencies are finding it more and more difficult to fill their ranks.

Forbes reports that the officer shortage is most critical in cities that experienced waves of protests and riots in the wake of the May 2020 in-custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Seattle: Police Chief Adrian Diaz announced a “staffing crisis” at his department last month as another 66 departures in the first few months of 2021 brought the total number of police that have left since last summer to over 200. Many officers cited an anti-police climate and disagreements with police management as their reasons for leaving.

Louisville: Nearly 190 officers have left the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) in 2020 and 43 have stepped away so far in 2021, either choosing to retire or resign altogether, a union spokesperson told Fox News.

"I would say that we’re in dire straits," said River City Fraternal Order of Police press secretary Dave Mutchler, speaking to the current condition of LMPD staffing. Mutchler noted that LMPD’s most recent recruitment class, which graduated on Friday, consisted of 15 new hires, as opposed to the 48-person capability the department has. He said approximately 70 of the 188 people who left LMPD last year retired while the rest chose to resign.

Portland: The Rose City has been ground zero for riots in 2021, as violent elements of Black Lives Matter, other anti-police organizations, and hyper violent anarchists battled with law enforcement. City government showed a definitive lack of support for officers during this war in the streets. And officers are leaving. A total of 115 police officers leaving since last July (over a third resigned) and nearly 140 vacancies on its force of now under 1,100 officers.

New York City: The NYPD saw about 15% of its force (more than 5,300 officers) leave in 2020, a 75% spike from the year before, according to data obtained by The New York Post. The NYPD’s headcount has dropped from 36,900 in 2019 to 34,974, with the department anticipating more departures after the state became the first in the country to end qualified immunity for police officers. 

Through April 21 of this year, 831 cops have retired or filed to leave — and many more are expected to follow suit in the current anti-cop climate, according to Joseph Giacalone, a retired NYPD sergeant and adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

“Cops are forming a conga line down at the pension section and I don’t blame them,” Giacalone said. “NYPD cops are looking for better jobs with other departments or even embarking on new careers.”

Minneapolis: Reduced funding to its police department then had to approve additional funding for its police department earlier this year as the agency struggled with a dramatic uptick in violent crime after an unprecedented exodus from the department and calls to “defund the police.” 

“We’re running into a real crisis here,” Betsy Brantner Smith, a spokesperson for the National Police Association, told Forbes in a Thursday interview. “One of the things people need to understand is that a lot of these officers are not leaving police work, they’re going to places where they’re appreciated and where their job is not so politicized.” 

Even agencies that haven't been overwhelmed by unrest and anti-police sentiment are reporting difficulties recruiting new sworn personnel.

The superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police Col. James Manni recently testified about the situation in front of the R.I. House Finance Subcommittee on Public Safety, WPRI reports.

“The State Police is on the verge of a personnel crisis between retirements and turnover,” he said. “I cannot sugarcoat this.” Manni said the agency’s responsibilities have increased dramatically, but the number of troopers on the force is the same as what it was 10 years ago.

Right now, he said they’re doing more with less, including investigating 87,000 claims of unemployment fraud during the pandemic and responding to roughly 300 sexual assault complaints from just the first four months of this year.

Manni said their efforts to recruit new troopers aren’t keeping pace.

“State Police started recruiting on April 1 of this year,” he said. “Currently we have about 380 applicants. We normally would expect about 2,000 applicants in the same time frame.”


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