Staffing shortages are a nationwide trend among police agencies, with several contributing factors leading to the absence of resources around the country.
In Baltimore, a city referred to as the most murderous big city in the nation, there is a vacancy rate of police patrol positions of about 26 percent. It’s one snapshot of a trend occurring at departments of every size.
“Thirty-one years ago, when I applied to be a police officer there was a line of 400 of us to get into the testing. That’s not the norm now,” said Capt. Steve Rau with the Falls Church Police Dept. in Virginia.
He is spot on. When I applied with my agency (more than a few years ago), there were estimates of 100-200 applicants per opening. Those days appear to be long gone.
In a recent interview, Rau said the shortage in Falls Church has meant those who do work often have to pick up the slack for the holes in the schedule, WJLA reported.
“If all of a sudden you’re telling people, not only do you have to work and you can’t take a vacation, but you also have to work tomorrow even though it’s your day off. That takes a toll on the body,” Rau said. Moreover, it takes a toll on the mind, he added.
Police officers engage in millions of negative encounters annually. However, during the relatively rare occasion when something goes dramatically wrong, the video from each encounter goes viral. Worse yet, armchair quarterbacks who don’t know a thing about criminal or civil law are willing to excoriate them on social media in addition to the evening news.
Furthermore, attorneys looking to make a name as well as a buck for themselves will take on any case, all while destroying a cop who may have had the best intentions, but circumstances simply came unraveled. Sadly, there is almost no room for error without getting eviscerated from every direction. So fewer people are willing to submit to these circumstances.
As a result, there is a lasting impact on the perception of police from outsiders and of the willingness of potential new officers to apply. This is especially felt in law enforcement families.
In the past it would not be uncommon for sons and daughters to follow in the footsteps of their law enforcement parents. But recently, more and more police professionals are steering their children toward other career opportunities.