Police departments from Atlanta to Kansas City to Portland are coping with critical staffing shortages and struggling to fill their ranks from patrol officers to 911 operators, as warm weather historically portends bursts of violence in many parts of the U.S., reports CNN. "The people (who) work here are working long hours, extra overtime to cover other shifts," said Kansas City Police Interim Chief Joseph Maybin during a tour of the department's 911 call center, which is experiencing longer wait times. "But we have to have someone answering the call. We have to have someone dispatching, otherwise we can't get officers to people. It's critical." Across the nation, the challenges police departments face in retaining and recruiting officers are daunting - a staffing crisis exacerbated by retirements and resignations, as well as high-profile killings that have put policing under increased scrutiny and made it a frequent target of protests and calls for budget cuts. Police departments are offering bonuses to new officers and, in some cases, those already on the job, as well as educational stipends and other incentives in an attempt to fill their ranks.
Atlanta, Dallas, and Portland are looking to fill between 100 to 550 officer positions. In Seattle, the shortage of police officers has led fewer detectives working on sexual assaults. Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz had to move detectives and support staff from other units to help. The summer heat has further highlighted the severity of the issue, with Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown expressing concerns over the department's canceling of days off during the summer. A June 2021 national survey found that police departments on average were filling 93 percent of available budgeted positions, according to the Police Executive Research Forum. The survey showed a 45 percent increase in retirements and an 18 percent jump in resignations over the previous year. Even with new hires, on average, officers spend eight months training before they can patrol the streets alone, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. That means it will take years to fill open jobs at departments across the U.S.. "One of the challenges now is every ... police department is looking for the same group of talented motivated individuals that have a heart to serve," said Atlanta Interim Police Chief Darin Schierbaum.