According to their website, the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) is a police research and policy organization who, among other services, provides research and policy development for police. According to a recent report from PERF, police departments from coast to coast are having an extremely difficult time keeping officers on the force. The staggering numbers have many alarmed, but is it really cause for concern?
Perf reports that the rate of retirements at some departments rose 45% compared with the previous year. According to the group's research, at the same time, hiring slowed by 5%. Using the rise in violent crime across the country and these startling rates as the impetus behind a new spending plan, president Joe Biden recently approved the use of $350 billion in Covid-19 relief funding to hire more law-enforcement personnel.
Though calls for police accountability have been becoming louder over the last few years, the movement sparked by the murder of George Floyd set off a powder keg which has led to historical reform from coast to coast. As a result of the push to be held accountable for their actions, cops are upset and are leaving the force in record numbers.
Naturally, police are playing the victim here and claiming the calls to hold them accountable amount to a war on cops and this is driving them out.
Police Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch told The NY Post in May that "The Mayor and City Council are absolutely trying to abolish the police. They’ve kept our pay absurdly low. They’ve ratcheted up our exposure to lawsuits. They’ve demonized us at every opportunity. And they’ve taken away the tools we need to do the job we all signed up for, which is to keep our communities safe.
"Now the NYPD is spending money on slick recruiting ads to replace the experienced cops who are leaving in droves. City Hall should just admit the truth: police abolition-through-attrition is their goal. They won’t stop until the job has become completely unbearable, and they’re getting closer to that goal with every passing day."
"Police officers are really feeling demonized, vilified, criticized in the court of public opinion," Darrell Cortez, a 30-year veteran of the San Jose Police Department told NBC Bay Area this week, telling them he is glad he's not a cop anymore.
While some Americans may see this decline as a negative situation, it is important to examine the possible reasons for it and understand that this isn't necessarily a bad thing and can actually be beneficial.
The very essence of policing is being debated in many cities, often because of controversial video recordings of police officers' actions like Derek Chauvin and others. Community trust has eroded, and the professionalism of the police is being questioned, as it should be.
This questioning is necessary. This scrutiny is deserved. And, this decline in police officers is a sign that things need to change.
There is no doubt that being a police officer can be a grueling, dangerous, and often times extremely unrewarding job. But much of this stress is due to a failed job description.
While many cops out there have saved lives and have been recognized for their heroism, others, who are 'just doing their jobs' have continued to drive a wedge between the police and the policed.
Enforcing laws for victimless crimes, extorting people over arbitrary traffic laws like seat belts and window tint, and kidnapping and caging people for marijuana does not make you a hero. It makes you a tool for the prison industrial complex and an enemy to many.
When taking a quick scroll down Facebook posts, websites, and Twitter feeds on any number of subjects, it is easy to find negative comments about police officers. Despite police unions and police apologists claiming these negative comments and criticisms are coming from criminals and thugs, the reality is much different.
Of course murderers, rapists, and thieves hate cops but these are not the people openly criticizing police. This criticism comes from mothers and fathers who've watched their children get harassed constantly because of the neighborhoods they live in or the color of their skin.
This criticism comes from the millions of people who have a family member whose life has been ruined because police caught them with a plant. This criticism comes from the millions of other people who have to decide between paying their electricity bill or paying their $300 seat belt ticket. And, this criticism comes from the families of mentally ill individuals who called police for help, only to watched their loved one be killed in a hail of bullets.
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This is why some municipalities have begun removing cops from the situation entirely.
On June 1, 2020, Denver began the Support Team Assistance Response (STAR) program, which sends a mental health professional and a paramedic to some 911 calls instead of cops. When we first reported on the program in October 2020, their results were fantastic. Now, it seems that departments who continue the old way are doing a disservice to the mentally ill.
According to their latest data, STAR has responded to more than 2,500 calls to 911 in which police would have normally been sent out. The STAR team — armed only with experience and compassion — has never once called police to back them up and no one was ever arrested.
They have settled every single call without killing someone, beating them, ruining their lives, or using violence. Imagine that.
Another type of encounter which turns deadly all too often is the traffic stop.
While most everyone in America commits these same traffic infractions designed for revenue collection instead of safety, most of the people targeted by police for these crimes are the poor and minorities. Often times, officers treat these stops as gateways to fish for drug activity or other victimless crimes. While ending the drug war would have a much more profound effect, some municipalities have kicked around the idea of removing traffic stops from the mission of police officers.
Traffic stops in the land of the free, are a means of bolstering the prison industrial complex by extracting revenue from those who can pay and incarcerating others who cannot.
For those too poor to pay their tickets, routine traffic stops end up in repeated imprisonment due to mounting fines. Cities across the country are running a de facto debtors' prison this way.
When cops aren't routinely extorting and locking people up for petty traffic offenses, they are killing them.
Walter Scott was pulled over for a broken taillight. Scott—unarmed—ran away from the police officer, who pursued and shot him from behind, first with a Taser, then with a gun. Scott was struck five times, “three times in the back, once in the upper buttocks and once in the ear — with at least one bullet entering his heart.”
The list of folks killed over traffic stops is as long as it is infuriating.
This is why the City of Berkeley, California has proposed ending police traffic enforcement. The effects of such a radical shift in policing could be massive.
Though it is a step in the right direction, because government relies on revenue generated from traffic stops to fund itself, this proposal stops short of actually ending the practice of extorting citizens.
Instead, according to the report, Berkeley's City Council will vote on a proposal to create a Department of Transportation and use employees in that department to make traffic stops instead of Berkeley Police officers.
If the effects of this move are anything close to the STAR program, we could be well on our way to revamping the role cops play in the United States. And, the thousands of dead bodies over the last several years, is evidence enough that it is high time this happens.
The decline in the number of cops is a sign that things need to change. This sign can be taken as an opportunity for Americans to move forward and foster a more free society, or it can be squandered and covered in excuses by playing victim. The choice is ours.