Since the George Floyd riots of 2020, law enforcement in the U.S. has taken a hit, with resignations at an all-time high and recruitment at a dangerous low.
In New York City, over 2,500 officers turned in their badges this year. According to NYPD pension data, this year marks the fourth-highest number of police officers who have resigned in the last 10 years.
“The number of cops quitting before they reach the 20 years required to receive their full pensions also skyrocketed from 509 in 2020 to 1,040 so far this year—an alarming 104% increase,” the New York Post reported.
Additionally, the NYPD plans to cancel the next five scheduled Police Academy classes. Cuts such as these are projected to bring the department down to “29,000 cops by the end of fiscal year 2025—the lowest level since the mid-’90s,” the Post added.
A glance at the past couple of years, however, could very well explain this crisis.
Not only do law enforcement officers put their lives on the line in the fight against crime, but many police officers and deputy sheriffs sacrifice time with families and loved ones as well.
What most people have heard from law enforcers in the past is that helping the community makes the risks and sacrifices worth it. But increased resignations and decreased recruitment suggest that thousands of men and women don’t believe it’s worth it anymore.
And it’s no wonder, because they are demoralized at every turn.
In a matter of years, police officers have gone from heroes to the targets of utter hatred in many circles. Especially after Floyd’s death in the custody of Minneapolis police, a movement to “defund the police” went from spark to blaze.
According to The New York Times’ Mariame Kaba, police are “set up” or even designed for violence. Her view of law enforcement is that the world is better without it. Although I really couldn’t disagree more with Kaba’s article, she has provided a clear example of the kind of criticism thrown at police quite often these days.
According to a report by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, lack of recruitment can be attributed to several influences, but it’s mostly due to the public image of law enforcement.
The association concluded:
Scrutiny of the police, cellphone recordings of interactions between the police and public, media coverage, and popular entertainment portrayals of police have led many young people to view police differently than their parents may have. Overall, a majority of police officers feel their jobs have gotten more difficult since high-profile use-of-force incidents have dominated the national conversation.
In June 2021, Officer Lindsay Rose faced chastisement as riots broke out in Asheville, North Carolina. Rose said she was spit on and yelled at. Even after she took several months off to recover, once she came back to the field, she was still met with backlash.
After Rose came back she decided to quit, ending seven years of service.
“I’m drowning in this politically charged atmosphere of hate and destruction,” she said.
What Rose shared reflects the experience of many in law enforcement.
In addition to the political backlash, crime is on the rise.
Violent crime in Washington, D.C., has skyrocketed, thanks in part to lax local laws. Complicating the issue, the District has about 400 fewer officers than three years ago. And of course, even when D.C. police do succeed at catching criminals, little to no prosecutions follow the arrests, which puts dangerous people back on the street to commit even more offenses.
While D.C. becomes a hive of crime, local officials have decided that the priority is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars—not on public safety but on anti-police messaging. Just this week, the District blew approximately $270,000 worth of tax dollars “touching up its ‘Black Lives Matter’ street painting,” as Fox News reported.
In response, Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, said: “D.C. crime is out of control, but local leaders continue to waste … tax money promoting the extremist Black Lives Matter movement in the heart of Washington, D.C., that is racist, anti-police, anti-American, and often violent.”
And D.C. is just one example of the rampant crime spreading across the country.
Stores continue to get ransacked. At least nine Target retail stores throughout four states, four Walmart stores in Chicago, five Walgreen stores in San Francisco, and other retailers have closed or will close as a result. Across the board, a report by the Metropolitan Police Department revealed, violent crime in total is up 40% over last year.
We are clearly in need of law enforcement, but the lack of support (or rather the abundance of opposition mixed with displaced priorities) has caused the protective ranks to dwindle.
Jacob Kersey, FRC Action’s operations coordinator, previously served as a police officer.
“Law enforcement officers head to work every day knowing the risks associated with the profession,” Kersey told The Washington Stand, the news and commentary outlet of Family Research Council.
For Kersey, there are many reasons why someone may enter law enforcement, but often “one of the most rewarding, although challenging, aspects of the job is the opportunity to give of yourself and protect your community.”
Rarely do officers get dispatched to a scene where those present are overflowing with gratitude that the officers are there because they often encounter citizens during the worst day of their lives—which is why support from the people you serve goes a long way in making all the sacrifice feel worth it.
Kersey concluded that with “recent high-profile incidents leading to mass negative public image of police across the nation, veterans and recruits alike struggle with justifying the risks of donning a badge and gun.”
So the question remains: What do we do about it?
Ken Blackwell, former mayor of Cincinnati and a senior fellow for human rights and constitutional governance at Family Research Council, sees a boiling point.
“There is a real downside to that ‘romantic’ view of defunding the police or repurposing the police,” Blackwell told The Washington Stand. “But the pressure is on because … people are not safe in their homes, in their communities. Their kids are not safe in their schools.”
For Blackwell, what we are seeing on the streets “underscores this whole embrace of lawlessness.”
“If you turn a blind eye to bad behavior, you can’t be surprised that you get more of it,” he said.
As for what can be done, Blackwell concluded that it’s going to take time and better leadership. And now that some cities see the consequences of their actions, changes may be in sight.
Considering the nation’s police-hiring woes and crime crisis, authorities must deal with now, he said, “They’ve dug themselves a hole that they’re not going to be able to climb out of quickly.”
This article originally was published by The Washington Stand
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