Police Recruitment and Retention Crisis Hitting Critical Mass

 November 5, 2023

The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) is raising alarm over what they classified as a historic police recruitment and retention crisis.

The decreasing number of active police officers, a decline attributed to multiple factors including the COVID-19 pandemic, a tightening labor market, public sentiment, concerns for officer safety, and most importantly, anti-police rhetoric pose significant challenges for law enforcement agencies and communities alike.

With America losing 11,009 police officers from March 2020 to March 2021, there are growing concerns over the risk of overreliance on less-traditionally trained security officers and impact on proactive policing.

Despite an increase in hiring rates, police departments lose officers faster than they can recruit new ones, leading to an unprecedented surge in recruitment of private security officers.

This urgency has prompted the Department of Justice to propose significant changes to tactics in police training, pay, hiring processes, equipment, and accountability, in hopes of remedying the recruitment and retention crisis that US Attorney General Merrick Garland considers a priority.

Factors Behind Declining Police Numbers

As the U.S. grapples with a steep downward trend in police numbers, several contributing factors have been identified.

A major factor is the tightening labor market. As alternative industries and professions begin rebound after the draconic COVID lockdowns, the police force doesn’t seem to offer the same level of attraction or job security that it once did.

Data from a Police Executive Research Forum survey demonstrates this change, showing a reduction from 83,497 sworn officers in January 2020 to 79,464 by January 2021.

Unprecedented anti-police rhetoric have also fueled the decline in police numbers. With the decline of mainstream media into far-left reporting, instances of alleged police misconduct are broadcast widely, leaving many officers feeling under siege and unappreciated.

The psychological toll, coupled with the inherent physical dangers of police work, have created a challenging environment for recruitment and retention.

Statistics Highlighting the Crisis

A substantial drop in the number of working police officers, coupled with a rise in the hiring of private security officers, provides an alarming statistical portrayal of the ongoing crisis in U.S. policing.

Insights from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and a survey by the Police Executive Research Forum highlight the severity of the situation.

From March 2020 to March 2021, the U.S. lost a staggering 11,009 police officers. This dramatic attrition represents one of the most significant single-year declines in history and serves as a wake-up call to the crisis at hand.

These numbers paint a sobering image of the sheer impact of far left policies and anti-police rhetoric afflicting law enforcement in the country.

A comparison of police numbers between January 2020 and January 2021 further underscores the escalating concerns.

The Police Executive Research Forum survey discloses a reduction from 83,497 sworn officers to 79,464 within the span of just one year. This signifies a decline in the national police force of almost 5 percent, a trend that, if unchecked, could have serious ramifications on public safety and law enforcement efficiency.

While hiring rates within law enforcement agencies have shown an increase, with 6,759 hires in 2021, up from 4,889 in 2020, the growth in new appointments is not keeping pace with the attrition rate.

Despite the modest increase in the recruitment rate, the rate of loss far-outweighs the gains. This imbalance in the numbers has led to an overreliance on fewer officers with less experience.

Rise of Private Security Officers

In light of the spiraling dwindling police numbers, United States police departments are increasingly leaning towards hiring private security officers to meet law enforcement needs.

The shift is revealed starkly in the numbers: private security officers in the U.S., estimated at 1.3 million, now far outnumber the 800,000 public police officers serving the country.

Concerns are proliferating over this increasing dependency on private security officers. Though they provide a much-needed boost to the depleted police ranks, the level of training, expertise, and oversight exercised over private security officers often falls short when compared to sworn police officers.

This disparity in skills and qualifications brings into focus the question of whether such a reliance could adversely affect proactive policing and impact enforcement of firearm-related laws.

Need for Reassessment and Changes

The current scenario underscores a pressing need for a return to the days when law enforcement officers felt supported by their leadership and community.

In response to this historic crisis, the U.S. Department of Justice is proposing an array of robust strategies aimed at halting and reversing the downturn in officer numbers.

The proposed methods focus on updating existing eligibility requirements, streamlining hiring processes, modifying fitness requirements, creating non-sworn positions, and offering incentives such as retention bonuses or tuition reimbursement.

A major aspect of these reforms involves modernizing the requirements for new hires. By updating prerequisites, the Department of Justice hopes to broaden the pool of potential candidates and thereby accelerate the recruitment process.

Another proposed tactic to expedite hiring is the streamlining of procedures, reducing bureaucracy and making the process more accessible for applicants.

As part of these reforms, changes in fitness requirements are also on the table. Rather than continuing to strictly enforce traditional physical standards, a shift towards more versatile criteria that encompass broader attributes of prospective officers such as resilience, adaptability, and emotional intelligence could bring in more qualified recruits.

Finally, the Department is looking to ensure that once officers are on board, they stay on board. This effort is reflected in the potential offering of material benefits like retention bonuses, tuition reimbursement, and other perks to enhance job satisfaction and reduce the attritor rate.

These proposed reforms indicate a shift in thinking, a move from traditional structures to more innovative and flexible processes, demonstrating the Department of Justice's commitment to resolving this pressing challenge.

However, these reforms fo little to tackle the main problem of leftist politicians and the mainstream media portraying the men and women in blue as monsters. Without this shift in rhetoric, law enforcement agencies will see little difference.

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