Some of the nation’s biggest police departments are experiencing concerning drops in officer numbers, and a big factor behind this sad situation is the anti-police activism seen in the wake of the George Floyd incident.
Thousands of officers have left the country’s top three police departments, with retirements and resignations combining with recruiting problems to leave cities unprotected as crime rises, especially violent crime.
Let’s start with the biggest police agency in the U.S., the New York Police Department. They’ve seen their overall officer numbers drop by 1,500. With retirements climbing to 2,600 last year from just 1,509 the year before and 350 officers exiting so far this year, anti-police sentiment has been a big driving factor.
A large recruitment drive carried out by the city this year that waived application fees failed to approach the applicant numbers of past drives, and it is unlikely to yield enough officers to replace those who have retired. Although 14,500 applied, just one in nine will ultimately get through the entrance exam and the police academy, according to past trends, leaving only 1,600 new officers entering the force next year. If the current retirements continue, the new recruits won’t even come close to making up for the officers who have been driven away.
Many retirees have cited anti-police sentiment and activists as being behind their decision, and the state banned officers from using certain restraint techniques, leaving some officers feeling less protected. Moreover, the city has put some new laws in place that ban judges from requiring cash bail for many lower-level violent crimes, which means criminals are back on the streets faster after an arrest. This demoralizes officers, who feel that their work is futile.
What does this mean for New Yorkers? Shootings are going up in the city, with 2019’s figure of 900 people shot more than doubling in 2020; so far this year, 721 people have been shot, which is the highest number seen during this period in nearly 20 years.
Other cities aren’t faring much better, with the Los Angeles Police Department losing nearly 600 officers since 2019. One factor at play is the city’s decision to cut its police budget by $150 million in response to activists’ calls to “defund the police.”
Not surprisingly, shootings are up in L.A. as well. More than 1,300 people in total were shot last year in a 40 percent rise over the year before. This year isn’t looking much better, with 626 shootings as of June 12 marking a 60 percent rise over the same period last year.
The Chicago Police Department, meanwhile, has lost more than 700 officers since 2019. Some officers are leaving the department for suburbs, and many are citing issues such as a lack of respect for the police force, excessive workloads, and salary disputes as the source of their unhappiness.
Shootings and murders rose by more than 50 percent there last year and have climbed by 18 and 5 percent, respectively, so far this year.
A similar trend is being seen in St. Louis, where they’ve lost 192 officers and only hired 109. Aggravated assaults with a gun and murders have climbed 20 and 36 percent, respectively, as a result.
In Seattle, the police department has lost 252 officers and only hired 86 officers since the start of 2020, and although violent crime has dropped slightly, murders are on the rise. Staffing concerns have also been reported in police departments in Austin, Des Moines, Charlotte-Mecklenburg and Fayetteville.
These rises in crime should come as no surprise to those who of us value the contribution of our country’s law enforcement officers. The “defund the police” movement already has a lot of blood on its hands, and it’s horrifying to imagine what our cities will look like if these trends continue.
Sources for this article include: