As Anti-Cop Rhetoric Dominates the Discussion, Police Departments Facing Disastrous Hiring Shortages


Amid the vitriol that’s been directed at police officers since the launch of the left’s “defund the police” campaign, the country is currently facing a shortage of cops that’s only likely to get worse.

Although this news will make Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s heart leap, it’s a dangerous development for all of us, perhaps most of all for minorities.

In the Philadelphia area, for instance, not only is the city’s police department “struggling with a shortage of police recruits and a surge in retirements,” according to a report Sunday in The Philadelphia Inquirer, but one suburban police chief told the newspaper, “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.”

In the city itself, one official told The Inquirer there are currently 268 vacancies and that number is expected to grow.

“From Jan. 1 through Thursday, 79 Philadelphia officers have been accepted into the city’s Deferred Retirement Option Program, meaning they intend to retire within four years, according to Mayor Jim Kenney’s office,” the newspaper reported. “During the same time period last year, just 13 officers had been accepted into the program, the officer said.”

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That’s a 600 percent jump.

Mike Neilon, a spokesman for the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police, described it as “the perfect storm.”

“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,” he told The Inquirer.

Neilon also indicated that the department’s fairly “new requirement that police applicants live in the city” is having an effect on recruitment. He added, “All of that coming together is creating some issues with finding the best and brightest to sign up to be Philadelphia police officers.”

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This issue is not unique to Philadelphia. It’s becoming a problem in large cities throughout the country.

Col. Patrick Callahan, the acting superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, told The Inquirer his applicant pool was “historically low” this year. Two years ago, he said, “5,000 qualified applicants applied.” In 1993, there had been 15,000 applicants, he said.

Pat Colligan, president of the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association, told the newspaper the development was a product of a poisonous environment for potential police officers.

“Every action has a reaction. When you vilify every police officer for every bad police officer’s decision, [potential candidates] don’t want to take this job anymore,” Colligan said. “It’s been a very trying and difficult time to put on the badge every day. There’s a recruiting crisis.”

Jack Rinchich, president of the 4,000-member National Association of Chiefs of Police, agreed. The major issue, he said, was the unrest that followed the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody in May.

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“Departments across the country are grappling with the fallout of Floyd’s murder,” he told The Inquirer. “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.'”

Rinchich added that some officers are “demoralized” by seeing their budgets cut or frozen and hearing local officials debate over “whether to strip officers of qualified immunity, which shields them from being sued in most cases.”

In the video below, WPVI-TV in Philadelphia reported that many big-city police departments are facing recruitment shortages, not only related to the cultural environment but also because the coronavirus pandemic put a virtual halt to training new recruits.

In addition to the fact that most big-city departments are attracting fewer applicants, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #5 President John McNesby told WPVI-TV: “You got to remember that once you go into the academy, it takes you about 10 months to finish. So, we’re not looking at putting any boots on the ground until maybe next spring,”

McNesby echoed Nielon’s term.

“It’s kind of like a perfect storm developing,” he told WPVI. “The eye of the storm is revolving around several issues including a dramatic rise in the number of Philadelphia police officers retiring, a diminishing pool of young people who even want to be a big-city cop and the suspension of new officer training because of the pandemic.”

Richard Vona, director of the Bucks County Police Training Center — located in the suburb of Doylestown, Pennsylvania — spoke to WPVI.

“All of these issues are inspiring younger officers from the city to seek employment in the suburbs and not just from Philadelphia. He says his springtime testing dates are filling quickly.”

“The application’s only been open for a week …,” Vona said. “But I do see a number of officers from some of the bigger cities: New York, Philadelphia …”

Last Tuesday, WBFF-TV, Fox 45 in Baltimore,  reported on a startling Twitter post published by the Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police.

It said, “Word is Police Commissioner Harrison will need to close 2 police districts. As of today, patrol has fallen below 700 sworn officers! #500copsshort #cityincrisis.”

A second tweet was sent later by the union president that stated, “The topic of closing police district(s) is nothing new in these times of mismanagement resulting in police shortages. It will continue to be one of many suggestions on the table until recruitment and retention issues are resolved. Our Patrol numbers are now below 700 officers which is about 300-400 below what is needed. This creates huge safety issues for our officers and for the citizens of Baltimore.”

Many cities cut their police budgets last year as calls to “defund the police” grew louder. New York City slashed its budget by $1 billion last summer.

Is there any wonder why recruitment levels are down and that those with a chance to retire are taking it? Would you want to be a police officer in this political climate?

The Democrats are playing a dangerous game. Their reckless rhetoric has real-world consequences, as rising rates of violent crimes show, particularly in urban areas with a heavy minority presence.  This is what narratives do.

Nobody wants to be a cop, because it went from a thankless job to a downright despised one. Our cities aren’t going to be able to staff their police units.

Good job, Democrats.

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Elizabeth writes commentary for The Western Journal and The Washington Examiner. Her articles have appeared on many websites, including MSN, RedState, Newsmax, The Federalist and RealClearPolitics. Please follow Elizabeth on Twitter or LinkedIn.
Elizabeth is a contract writer at The Western Journal. Her articles have appeared on many conservative websites including RedState, Newsmax, The Federalist,, HotAir, MSN and RealClearPolitics.

Please follow Elizabeth on Twitter.