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Police Retention and Hiring: The Math Doesn’t Add Up

Much has been written about the continuing national law enforcement officer hiring/retention crisis. And a lot more will be written—beginning right now.

Too many people seem to feel we’ll eventually find a resolution to this crisis, and they put it out of their minds. I’m an optimist, but eventually will likely take at least 10 years even with changes. There are so many facets to this crisis. Some situational, some intentional (defund the police comes to mind). One is the about a year it takes to get even one inexperienced rookie cop on the streets.

This may surprise some folks, but not all cops are equal. They’re not plug-and-play. It’s not like when your TV goes belly up, and you replace it with an even better TV. Replacing cops who have 10, 20, 30, or more years of experience with rookies isn’t like that.

You’re certainly not going to replace a homicide, rape, or robbery detective with 25 years of experience with a cop fresh off the assembly line. In fact, in a story about police staffing, CNN wrote about Durham, NC, Police Chief Patrice Andrews, who said, “We’ve had to be very creative with staffing, you know, putting investigators and those that typically wouldn’t necessarily be taking 911 calls, putting them back on the street.”

Chief Andrews emphasized, “the emergencies don’t stop, and certainly the emergencies don’t care if you are 60% staffed or below.” People keep calling 911. Chief Andrews has also taken patrol shifts to help with staffing deficits.

Experience matters.

And anyone who thinks cities can deploy the National Guard are dreaming. The Guard is great, but most NG soldiers are not military police officers. They can be a great help for mass disturbances. But they’re not going to respond to routine or emergency 911 calls where intimate knowledge of the city, department policies, and local and state laws are required to do the job right.

Agencies can’t force people to apply to become police officers. People become cops for various reasons, beginning with it being a “calling.” They want to help people. Other aspects like pay, benefits, and working conditions also play an important role because the lack of those things can also be a deterrent to retention and recruiting.'

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