New reports from across the country show that police departments are unable to keep their numbers up as fewer people are applying to be cops. There is a police recruitment crisis in America but this should not surprise anyone and can serve as a major opportunity, if we seize it.
According to Bethesda Magazine, numbers in Montgomery county, Maryland show police recruitment has dropped by nearly half in just the last few years. Instead of looking both inward and outward, officials are simply blaming it on increased police scrutiny.
“When you do a job that’s being highly criticized on a daily basis, we have to ask ourselves, how do we find good candidates that really want to be under that type of scrutiny,” said Acting Police Chief Marcus Jones. “If you feel like you’re being scrutinized all the time, then this may not be the career that you want, so we understand that that may be a roadblock for us.”
But police, and all government for that matter, must be scrutinized, as they hold power over people and unchecked power turns into tyranny—every single time.
It’s not just Maryland either. According to a report from the US Department of Justice, throughout the United States, “the number of full-time sworn officers per 1,000 residents decreased, from 2.42 in 1997 to 2.17 in 2016 (down 11%). The 2016 rate of full-time sworn officers per 1,000 residents was also lower than the rates in 2000 (down 7%), 2003 (down 8%), and 2007 (down 7%).”
And, as Reason magazine recently pointed out, nationally, 66 percent of police departments report seeing declining numbers of applications, according to a survey of 400 law enforcement agencies by the the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF).
This number is down despite many police officer salaries skyrocketing. The average cop makes $64,000 annually with some cops raking in over a quarter of a million each year.
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 be a really good thing.
“The American policing profession may be facing the most fundamental questioning of its legitimacy in decades,” said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, in a 2017 organizational newsletter. “The very essence of policing is being debated in many cities, often because of controversial video recordings of police officers’ actions. Community trust has eroded, and the professionalism of the police is being questioned.”
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 the police state.
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.
Many police departments even take to social media to brag about enforcing these laws in which there is no victim. Why, exactly, these departments brag on Facebook about such a waste of taxpayer money and oppression of the poor is a mystery—but they do it a lot.
And we the people are becoming tired of it.
Rape kits collect dust on shelves in police departments nationwide while weed busts continue to soar despite growing legality. Billions are collected in traffic fines annually while murders remain uninvestigated. Priorities are in disarray.
As TFTP has reported, when cops stop going after people for possessing substances deemed illegal by the state, real crimes are actually solved.
In fact, a study out of Boston showed exactly that. The study indicated that the Boston Police Department has drastically increased the number of homicides they solved since they stopped making arrests for marijuana. The homicide clearance rate increase by 10% following the decriminalization of marijuana in the area.
“The BPD homicide unit increased the yearly Boston homicide clearance rate by nearly 10 percent […] and by more than 18 percent when the clearance rate definition was extended to include those cases awaiting grand jury decisions,” the study said.
Civil asset forfeiture pays. Busting low-level drug dealers by the dozen and confiscating their drugs, guns, cars, houses, and money pays. Writing tickets for victimless crime pays. Pulling you over for window tint, seat belts, arbitrary traveling speeds, and expired license plates; these are the things that pay — solving murders does not pay.
However, as the drug war toned down slightly with the decriminalization of marijuana, police are miraculously able to funnel more resources and dedicate more officers towards solving murders. This is common sense.
In the United States, the murder clearance rate in 1965 was more than 90 percent. Since the inception of the war on drugs, the murder clearance rate has plummeted to an average of less than 65 percent per year.
This decline is in spite of there being far fewer murders. It is also in spite of new technological developments to help police solve crimes, like DNA testing, advanced forensic labs, and unethical spying devices like the stingray.
Despite the near complete erosion of the constitutional protections against unlawful search and seizure, the clearance rate for murder continued its free fall. This highlights the fact that no matter how many rights are given up or freedoms diminished — police cannot guarantee your safety — and all of this is due to the war on drugs and revenue collection for victimless crimes.
This decline in police recruitment should come as no surprise as law enforcement in this country has been at a cross roads for some time. While some heroic officers are taking a stand and calling for an end to the war on drugs and revenue collection, others are hell bent on maintaining the revenue stream, job security, and budgets for militarization that this war brings them.
Equally as egregious is the fact that the enforcement of victimless crimes endangers the lives of cops too and their own superiors don’t seem to care.
The overwhelming majority of violent police interactions stem from the enforcement of the war on drugs. This is a huge problem and countless experts in the field already have the solution. End the drug war. Sadly, however, except for a few departments across the country, most police will not even consider the notion.
The fact is that the drug war is dangerous, not only for the people being accused of having drugs by police, but as multiple deadly drug war incidents illustrate, it’s incredibly dangerous for police officers too.
Despite police officers being killed at a historically low rate, enforcing a war on substances pushes the sale of these substances into the criminal realm which makes it dangerous for everyone.
We can look at the prohibition of alcohol and the subsequent mafia crime wave that ensued as a result as an example. The year 1930, at the peak of prohibition, happened to be the deadliest year for police in American history. 300 police officers were killed enforcing a war on booze, and innumerable poor people slaughtered as the state cracked down on drinkers.
When the people became tired of the suffering and death created by the war on booze, they decided to end it, not double down. This is what needs to happen now.
The decline in people wanting to become 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.