Major Police Departments Losing Officers, Struggling With Recruiting
America’s largest police departments over the past year and a half have seen a steady decline in officers amid the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic and a rash of anti-police activism.
The top three police departments in the country have lost thousands of officers since 2019, the losses driven by an increase in retirements and resignations on top of recruiting woes.
Reports of officers leaving in droves have been coming from other major jurisdictions as well.
Meanwhile, those cities have seen a significant uptick in murders and shootings.
New York City
The largest police agency in the country, the NYPD is down about 1,500 officers as retirements jumped from 1,509 in 2019 to 2,600 in 2020, the department’s spokesperson told The Epoch Times via email. Another nearly 350 officers had left by mid-May this year.
Many of the retirements had to do with anti-police sentiment fanned by activist groups during protests and riots after the death of convicted felon George Floyd, a black man, during an arrest in Minneapolis last year. The officer had knelt on his neck and back for more than eight minutes as he repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe before becoming unresponsive.
Last year, the state of New York outlawed officers from using their knee on a suspect’s back or chest as a restraint technique during an arrest. Police officers and experts have criticized the law for criminalizing martial arts techniques routinely used by police to safely subdue resisting subjects.
New York City also enacted a bail reform that banned judges from requiring cash bail for most nonviolent and some lower-level violent crimes, resulting in criminals getting quickly back on the street after arrests. Officers called the policy demoralizing as it makes their work seem pointless.
The NYPD mounted a large recruitment drive this year, even waiving the usual $40 application fee, but still couldn’t reach the applicant numbers from the previous drive, according to NYPD Personnel Chief Martin Morales. Part of the reason is that the drive was shorter than usual this time.
Of the more than 14,500 who applied, only about one in nine will make it through the entrance exam and the academy, if past results are any indication, Morales outlined during a May 18 press conference.
That means there will be around 1,600 new officers sometime next year. By then, thousands more may have left the force, if last year’s retirement deluge continues.
While overall crime in the city continues to slightly decline, shootings are still on the rise. In 2019, the police reported over 900 people shot, fatally and non-fatally. In 2020, that number more than doubled. This year, 721 have been shot as of June 13—the highest number for this period since 2002.
The Chicago Police Department has lost close to 700 officers since 2019, according to data provided to The Epoch Times by the local lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the officers’ union. FOP represents about 8,000 of the city’s 12,000 officers.
In 2019, the department was able to hire 464 officers. In 2020, that number dropped to 157. This year, 101 have been hired as of June 15, based on the FOP data.
Meanwhile, 560 officers retired last year, compared to 475 in 2019 and 339 the year before. This year, 360 have retired as of June 15.
It’s not just the old guard leaving, though.
“We have young officers, doing lateral transfers, leaving this department and going somewhere else, whether it’s a suburb or out of state all entirely,” the FOP lodge’s president, John Catanzara, told The Epoch Times. “I’m talking the same people that [wanted] to pick up the mantle and carry on this police department are the ones that are even saying they had enough.”
Earlier this year, the union voted no confidence in Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot as well as the police superintendent, David Brown.
Catanzara mentioned salary disputes, excessive workload, and lack of respect for the force as the main areas of friction.
Lightfoot blamed the union leadership for protracting contract negotiations. Catanzara rejected that.
Lightfoot blamed the violence on unemployment, poverty, and the fact that people can “purchase military-grade weapons” in neighboring Indiana. Most poor and unemployed people don’t engage in murder and shootings, and such incidents almost never involve “military-grade weapons.” The favored weapons of inner-city criminals are small, easily concealable handguns.
The LAPD has lost nearly 600 officers since 2019, in major part due to a government hiring freeze instituted in response to the pandemic as well as the city’s decision last year to cut the police budget by $150 million in response to calls from activists to “defund the police.”
The defunding was supposed to cut the staffing level to 9,757 officers by this summer. As of June 21, the department is down to 9,444 officers.
The city somewhat boosted the department’s budget this year, which will allow it to start hiring on July 1, LAPD Chief of Police Michel Moore said at the May 25 commissioner meeting.
That won’t be enough to restore it to pre-pandemic strength, but merely to get “staffing levels that were the result of the budget cutbacks that were implemented last year by the mayor and city council,” he said.
The city saw more than 1,300 people shot, fatally and non-fatally, in 2020, up nearly 40 percent from the year before. This year, 626 have been shot as of June 12, up almost 60 percent from the same period the year before (pdf, pdf).
Similar stories of staffing shortages have been coming from other major police departments too.
St. Louis police department has hired 109 officers in 2020 and 2021 by June 2. In the same period, it has lost 192.
“Just as fast as we can hire and get new recruits trained and placed on our police department for patrol work, we are losing police officers at the same or an even faster rate,” SLPD Sgt. Christy Allen told The Epoch Times.
There were 264 murders and 3,047 aggravated assaults with a gun in the city in 2020. That’s up more than 36 percent and 20 percent respectively compared to the year before (pdf).
The Seattle Police Department has hired 86 officers in 2020 and through April 2021. In the same period, it has lost 252, Sgt. Randy Huserik told The Epoch Times via email.
Violent crime in the city somewhat declined overall in 2020, but murders shot up to 52 from 37 the year before.
In May, Axios reported staffing problems at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, Des Moines Police Department, as well as Fayetteville Police Department in Arkansas.