Cops are taking a hike

Posted: January 25, 2022 by chrisharper in Uncategorized

By Christopher Harper

In a perfect storm of protests over police reform and the deadly use of force, Philadelphia cops are leaving in droves, and few recruits are available to replace them.

These trends exist in other Pennsylvania locales, where crime has increased significantly over the past two years, creating a growing crisis in law enforcement. 

“We are anticipating that the department is going to be understaffed by several hundred members because hundreds of guys are either retiring or taking other jobs and leaving the department,” said Mike Neilon, spokesperson for the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge No. 5, the union that represents city police officers.

The pandemic has also hampered recruiting efforts, as has the relatively new requirement that police applicants live in the city, Neilon told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “All of that coming together is creating some issues with finding the best and brightest to sign up to be Philadelphia police officers.” 

In the past month, 79 Philadelphia officers have been accepted into the city’s Deferred Retirement Option Program, meaning they intend to retire within four years. That’s six times the number from last year.

The Philadelphia Police Department is budgeted to have 6,380 officers but has just 6,112, leaving 268 vacancies.

“Every action has a reaction. When you vilify every police officer for every bad police officer’s decision, [people] don’t want to take this job anymore,” said Pat Colligan, president of the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association, the state’s largest police union

“It’s been a very trying and difficult time to put on the badge every day,” he told the Inquirer. “There’s a recruiting crisis.”

Many departments face the same problems in older cops retiring early and younger people not wanting to join the ranks. 

“There’s no doubt in my mind that what’s transpiring in our nation today is contributing to the lack of retention and the difficulty in hiring new officers. A lot of cops right now, in view of the environment, are saying, ‘Hey, I’ve gone 20, 30 years without being sued, shot, or divorced. I’m going to get out while I have an opportunity,’” Jack Rinchich, president of the 4,000-member National Association of Chiefs of Police, said recently.

Officers also are upset, he said, by decisions to eliminate specialized units, such as SWAT and K-9 teams, and from local officials freezing and cutting police budgets and debating whether to strip officers of qualified immunity, which shields them from being sued in most cases.

Haverford Township Police Chief John Viola, president of the Delaware County Police Chiefs Association, told the Inquirer that larger departments that regularly fill recruit classes are trying to pump up falling numbers by making the application process more accessible.

“People don’t want to be police anymore. It’s a good job, and good-paying job, but when you look at national news every day, people just don’t want to be officers,” he added.

His department used to get applicant pools of 200 or 300. Only 72 people have applied so far this year, he said.

Elsewhere in the Pennsylvania suburbs, departments looking to fill vacancies of retiring veterans are struggling. For example, Hatfield Township had 100 applicants during a recent call for new officers. Of that group, only 47 showed up to take the exam. Those who did apply were from a mix of backgrounds: Some were college graduates struggling to find work in their fields, others had a lifelong interest in policing, and another group applied out of curiosity about the field.

In New Jersey, Col. Patrick Callahan, the acting superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, said the state’s largest police agency is facing a historically low applicant pool this year. So far, the agency has received 2,670 qualified applicants, which compares with 5,000 in 2020 and 15,000 in 1993. 

The message seems clear. We all should get ready for a bumpy road ahead when cops leave the beat.

Comments are closed.