Police departments nationwide are having a difficult time finding recruits to join their forces due to low morale among officers following a year of racial justice demonstrations against law enforcement, Axios reported on Wednesday.
The International Association of Chiefs of Police warns that the nationwide problem in attracting new recruits to departments across the U.S. adds strain to existing forces and could boost costs due to both overtime and employee burnout.
The trend is particularly worrisome for some activists, who say there could be another summer of unrest in many cities over the issue of police brutality.
In two examples illustrative of the problem across the country, applications for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department were down 26% during the first four months of 2021 compared to the same period last year, according to Axios, and in Des Moines, the number of applicants for the police force last month was 50% lower than the same time last year.
In addition, earlier this week, the New York City Police Department reported that approximately 1,000 fewer people took interest in taking the police exam this year compared to 2020, even though the city canceled the $40 filing fee and offered the test for free in a bid to attract more candidates, Fox News reported. The NYPD, with approximately 36,000 officers, is the largest police force in the United States.
Exacerbating the problem nationwide is that those currently on the police force are leaving in greater numbers, with Minneapolis a prime example. According to MPR News, twice as many police officers in Minneapolis left the force last year than normal due to low moral following backlash after the murder of George Floyd and the resulting calls to defund the police.
Law enforcement agencies are searching for ways to attract people to join the police force, but attempts, as in Des Moines, to provide sign-on bonuses are stymied by the need to get approval from county supervisors, Lt. Ryan Evans told Axios.
Major Mike Campagna, who recently retired after almost three decades with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, said it is vital “to find a way to hold police departments accountable, to hold them to a high standard of integrity and professionalism without demeaning them and without going to war with words."
He emphasized that each community is worse off the more difficult it becomes to recruit new police officers because "when you begin appealing only to people who need a job or people who are only looking for money, you're seeking the wrong people."
Pat Colligan, president of the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association, the state’s largest police union, told The Philadelphia Inquirer that a major reason for the recruiting crisis is that, "Every action has a reaction. When you vilify every police officer for every bad police officer’s decision, [people] don’t want to take this job anymore."
He stressed that, "It’s been a very trying and difficult time to put on the badge every day."
Jack Rinchich, president of the 4,000-member National Association of Chiefs of Police, added that, "There’s no doubt in my mind that what’s transpiring in our nation today is contributing to the lack of retention and the difficulty in hiring new officers. A lot of cops right now in view of the environment are saying, ‘Hey, I’ve gone 20, 30 years without being sued, shot, or divorced. I’m going to get out while I have an opportunity.’"
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