Survey Finds Turnaround in Police Staffing Efforts

Levels had fallen after pandemic's onset, George Floyd killing
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 28, 2024 2:45 PM CDT
Survey Finds Turnaround in Police Staffing Efforts
New York Police Department officers from the Strategic Response Group form a wall of protection around police officials during a news conference Monday about the pro-Palestinian protest encampment at Columbia University in New York.   (AP Photo/Stefan Jeremiah, File)

Police departments across the US are reporting an increase in their ranks for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 killing of George Floyd, which led to a historic exodus of officers, a survey shows. More sworn officers were hired in 2023 than in any one of the previous four years, and fewer officers overall resigned or retired, according to the 214 law enforcement agencies that responded to a survey by the Police Executive Research Forum, per the AP. Floyd's death at the hands of Minneapolis police officers spurred nationwide protests against police brutality and heightened scrutiny of law enforcement.

As officers left, many departments had to redeploy stretched resources by shifting officers away from investigative work or quality of life issues such as abandoned vehicles or noise violations to handle increases in crime. In some cases, the shortages meant slower response times or limiting responses to emergencies only, police officials say. "I just think that the past four years have been particularly challenging for American policing," said Chuck Wexler, executive director of PERF, a nonprofit policing think tank based in Washington, DC. "And our survey shows we're finally starting to turn a corner."

Departments are turning that corner at different rates, however. The survey shows that while small and medium departments had more sworn officers than they did in January 2020, large departments are still more than 5% below their staffing levels from that time, even with a year-over-year increase from 2022 to 2023. Many larger departments have increased pay or offered incentives such as signing bonuses for experienced officers, something smaller departments can't really compete with. But even some of the highest-paying departments are struggling to get new hires in the door, per the AP. "I don't think it's all about money. I think it's about the way people perceive their job and feel they are going to be supported," Wexler said.

(More police stories.)

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