U.S. law enforcement agencies still face "serious staffing issues," although hiring of new officers rebounded last year after falling sharply in 2020, says a new report from the Police Executive Research Forum. The report was based on a survey of major police agencies that received 184 responses. It found that resignations and retirements continue to put pressure on overall staffing. The total number of police officers dropped more than three percent during 2020 and 2021. Hirings decreased, and resignations and retirements increased. PERF attributed "negative changes" largely to "extreme stresses that the COVID-19 pandemic brought to policing... and by the thousands of protests and demonstrations following the murder of George Floyd in 2020, which in many cases involved acts of violence and hostility toward police officers."
Budget issues may have contributed to hiring cuts in 2020, as the pandemic resulted in an economic crisis and revenue shortages for city governments, and police in some cities faced “defunding” campaigns. Many departments reported "a decline in the number of qualified applicants, as well as an increase in officers resigning or retiring after reconsidering whether they want to work in policing." Many agencies reported a "significantly younger" work force. Benefits include getting officers who are more adept at using technology and more open to change. Drawbacks include a loss of institutional knowledge, less-experienced supervisors and an increase in vehicle crashes with younger officers. Most agencies did not change their hiring rules, but 13 eased their restrictions on applicants' past marijuana use. PERF expressed hope that "public sentiment about policing will shift as many police agencies and their communities work together to identify and implement reform measures that have broad support."