Regulation enforcement struggles to recruit since killing of Floyd | Politics
Law enforcement agencies across the country have seen a wave of retirements and exits and are struggling to recruit the next generation of police officers in the year since George Floyd was killed by a police officer.
And amid the national accounting for policing, communities are wondering who should become a police officer today.
Mass protests and calls to reform or disempower the police, as well as the coronavirus pandemic, took their toll on the morale of officials. The rate of retirement in some departments rose 45% year over year, according to a new study of nearly 200 law enforcement agencies conducted by the Washington Police Executive Research Forum and made available to The Associated Press. At the same time, attitudes slowed by 5%, the group found.
The wave comes as local lawmakers pledged to enact reforms – such as ending policies giving officials immunity for their actions on duty – and pledged to reshape policing in the 21st century. And recruiters are increasingly looking for a different type of recruit for contested departments.
Years ago, a candidate’s qualification could revolve around his – yes, his – muscle strength. Now police departments are saying they are looking for recruits who can use their brains. And they want these future officers to represent their communities.
“You used to want someone who actually had the strength to be more physical,” said Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant. “Today’s police officers, that’s not what we’re looking for. We are looking for someone who can really identify with the community, but who also thinks the way the community thinks. “
But today’s climate, coupled with the rise in crime in some cities, leads to what Chuck Wexler, director of the Police Executive Research Forum, called a “flammable mixture”.
It creates “a crisis on the horizon for police chiefs when they look at the resources they need, especially at a time when we are seeing an increase in killings and shootings,” Wexler said. “It’s a wake-up call.”
The data from the Wexler organization represent a fraction of the more than 18,000 law enforcement agencies nationwide and are not representative of all departments. But it’s one of the few efforts to investigate police attitudes and retention and compare it to prior to the Floyd assassination in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020. Former officer Derek Chauvin, who put his knee on Floyd’s neck while Floyd was handcuffed behind his back, has been convicted of murder and is awaiting conviction.
Researchers heard from 194 police departments last month about their hires, layoffs, and retirements between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021 and the same categories from April 1, 2019 to March 31, 2020.
In comparison, the changing public attitudes towards policing are well documented. According to a survey by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research last year, half of American adults believed that police violence against the public was a “very” or “extremely” serious problem.
“It’s hard to recruit the very people the police see as opposition,” said Lynda R. Williams, president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, who previously worked on recruiting efforts for the Secret Service.
Bryant knows firsthand. In the weeks following Floyd’s death, a white officer, Garrett Rolfe, shot and killed Rayshard Brooks, a black man, in a Wendy’s parking lot.
Rolfe was fired in quick succession, the boss resigned, and the local prosecutor announced charges of murder against Rolfe – a rare step in police shootings. Some police officers left the force, which currently has about 1,560 officers – about 63% of the force are black, 29% white and 5% Latinos.
Then came the “blue flu” – when many police officers called in sick in protest. Bryant, then the interim chief of the department, admitted it happened in Atlanta after Rolfe was indicted.
“Some are angry. Some are scared. Some are confused about what we are doing in this area. Some may feel a little abandoned, “said Bryant in an interview last summer at the height of the crisis.
But it hasn’t shaken the resolve of some, like Kaley Garced, a Baltimore hairdresser and policewoman who graduated from academy last August. Despite protests and attitudes towards law enforcement, she stuck to her career choice with a plan of interacting with residents.
“Earning your trust” leads to better policing, she said. Citizens who trust officials will not be afraid to “call you on their worst day” to ask for help.
Williams said she believes the next generation of law enforcement will bring a new perspective and advance the profession by making departments more diverse and inclusive.
“You are the change they want to see,” Williams said.
Recruiting is still a challenge. In some cities, like Philadelphia, departments spend more time browsing a candidate’s social media looking for possible biases. In other countries, pay gaps persist – a longstanding problem – making it difficult to attract prospective officers and retain newly trained recruits when a neighboring jurisdiction offers more money and benefits.
Dallas city guides have spent much of the last decade finding candidates and curbing the brain drain of officials frustrated with low wages and the near collapse of their pension fund.
Despite these efforts, the force now stands at around 3,100 officers – up from more than 3,300 in 2015 – a loss at a time when the city’s population has grown to more than 1.3 million. The troop consists of around 44% white, 26% black and 26% Latino. This means officials are handling more calls and detectives handling more cases, all amid heightened racial tension.
In 2016, in Dallas, five officers were killed by a sniper seeking revenge for police shootings in other locations that killed or wounded black men. Two years later, an off duty officer fatally shot her neighbor in his home. She was released and later sentenced to ten years in prison for murder.
Mike Mata, president of the Dallas Police Association, said the national political climate and local wage and pension issues complicate the challenges of hiring in Dallas.
In 2019, however, a consulting firm that Dallas had hired to review its department found that it not only needed more officers, it also needed “a realignment of strategy, objectives, mission and tactics.” This finding applies to Changa Higgins, a longtime community organizer.
“You don’t have to focus on hiring more officers,” said Higgins. “You have to focus on how you got these guys assigned.”
In Los Angeles, the department is battling a decades-long picture of scandals and racial struggles from the Watts Riots in 1965 to the bloodshed in 1992 following the acquittal of a Simi Valley jury of officials who brutally beat motorist Rodney King.
Recruiting and Employment Director Captain Aaron McCraney and Chief Michel Moore ticked the problems of the 48 new recruits – more than half of whom were women – last year, noting the pandemic, unrest and economic uncertainty fair were some of the challenges the new officers would face.
“Even if these are hard times, these are difficult times, these are interesting times,” said McCraney, “these times will pass and we will do better at things.”