Police forces scramble to fill vacancies as crime rises

(PHILADELPHIA) — Across the country, police forces are scrambling to keep their roll call numbers at full staff, but officials said they’ve been hit with challenges.

Burnout, low morale, and dejection have caused many cops, both long-time veterans and newcomers, to quit and change careers and recent public backlash against excessive police force has resulted in a drop in new applications, according to police officials.

In Philadelphia, the police force is facing a shortage of 600 officers, roughly 10% of its full force.

“It’s critical now,” Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw told ABC News of her force’s staffing levels. “It’s already critical, was critical a year ago.”

Outlaw and other police chiefs said the nation’s officer turnover issue is coming at a crucial time with crime on the rise and they’re working hard to get officers on the streets.

Several other cities have also reported officer shortages during the last two years.

Los Angeles’ police force is down roughly 500 officers and New Orleans’ police department has 300 fewer officers this year compared to 2021, according to data from the departments and local media reports.

A survey released two weeks ago by the Police Executive Research Forum found that three out of every four police departments have warned that their number of new applicants have declined over the last five years.

Kevin Davis, the police chief for the Fairfax County Virginia police, told ABC News that exit interviews show officers are leaving because they’re not feeling valued and can find better opportunities elsewhere.

“They’re going into IT, they’re going into sales, they’re teaching,” he told ABC News. “We’ve even had a person leave to go be a farmer.”

Anthony Carapucci told ABC News that he turned in his badge and gun after about a decade with the Philadelphia police department this year because he felt burned out.

“Yes, it’s a good job. It’s an honorable job, but it’s almost not worth it,” Carapucci, the son of two police officers, said.

Outlaw acknowledged the increased toll that her officers are facing, especially since they’re needed to take on extra duties to fill the voids.

The retention issue has also created a grave safety concern, she said. While Philadelphia police still respond quickly to 911 calls for shootings, homicides, and other serious crimes, the commissioner said it may take longer for officers to respond to lower-priority calls.

Philadelphia saw a record-breaking 562 homicides last year, according to police statistics. More than 460 people have been murdered in the city so far this year, statistics show.

Some Philly residents have said they’ve seen a difference in the lower police presence.

Kanitra Scott, who runs Nuvo’s Glam and Glow Hair Salon in Germantown, told ABC News that there have been a number of shootings outside her store since a patrol car stopped coming to patrol.

“All the killings started from the summer until now,” she said.

Police officials said that some of their officers have been discouraged by the public criticism following instances of police brutality.

When asked to respond to critics who say law enforcement may have undermined its own credibility and discouraged some potential recruits from pursuing a career in law enforcement, Outlaw rejected that notion adding “the same people who raised their voices against misconduct were the same ones “that will call 911 and will file a complaint if we don’t get there quickly enough.”

Still the commissioner and other chiefs said that the best way to tackle this issue is to convince communities that policing is still a “trusted profession.”

“Examine your heart, do you want to serve? Do you want to make your community better and your family safer and your neighbor safer and your friends safer?” Fairfax County’s Davis said.

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