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Police Departments Face 'Vicious Cycle' of Departures, Fewer Hires

Police departments are facing a "vicious cycle" of retirements, resignations, and fewer hires, leaving communities with understaffed departments and potentially underqualified officers. A survey from the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) of 182 law enforcement agencies indicated that while police departments are recruiting more officers after a 2020 decline, they have seen 47% more resignations and 19% more retirements in 2022 compared to 2019, reports ABC News. "There's a vicious cycle of it getting worse," said Prof. Peter Moskos of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, a former police officer.

Law enforcement experts expressed concern that challenges in recruiting fresh candidates and spiking rates of retirements and resignations may mean that departments cannot hire and train enough officers to make up for the departing officers. The staffing crunch may leave departments with fewer candidates, less qualified candidates, and fewer officers on call to respond to emergencies. "If you don't have enough cops, at some point, you're going to have an active shooter situation where police response is critical, and getting there a minute later could cost you 20 or 50 lives," said PERF's Chuck Wexler. Experts attribute the recruiting challenge to increased external scrutiny and reputational harm to the profession. Some note that the lack of job flexibility, demanding hours, and the need to work on holidays (especially for junior officers) contribute to the crisis. "Media coverage has led many young people to view police differently than their parents' generation may have," said International Association of Chiefs of Police president John Letteney. "And a lot of officers think their job has gotten more difficult since high profile use of force incidents." Yale Law Prof. James Forman said departments could serve their communities best if they took an active approach to community policing rather than recruiting officers who desire to engage in a "heavy-handed aggressive policing" that makes excessive force and brutality "inevitable."


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