Police shortages: A growing concern across America’s communities

Police shortages: A growing concern across America’s communities

In recent years, police shortages have become an increasing issue across the United States, with communities struggling to deal with the implications of understaffed law enforcement agencies. Cities close to home, such as Akron, Ohio, are no exception to the shortage in law enforcement officers. The city is finding it more and more challenging to endure safety to those who live and work in the area.

“Retaining officers is a new challenge”

Ohio State Highway Patrol Officer Jim Callahan

Akron police lieutenant Marissa Hansen said the department, with help from the city, is doing everything it can to recruit and retain officers.

“We have been running campaigns and events for the past couple of years to boost recruitment to Akron P.D.,” Lt. Hansen said. “We have been working with multiple programs to get potential recruits interested in law informant.

Akron’s police department has also begun working with police academies to fill vacancies in their force.

“It is important that people understand the challenge it is to get young recruits to come to a city like Akron, and work as a police officer,” Lt. Hansen said. “Before a lot of the nationwide police shortages, newer recruits had to come and work in larger departments before they could transfer to a smaller, quieter, department, now, a recruit can pick anywhere they want to go, because every department is short on numbers.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 64,000 openings for police and detectives are projected each year, over the next decade. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also states that most of the openings are either from officers who have transferred to another workforce, from law enforcement, or those who have left the workforce altogether, such as those who have retired.

In a survey released by the Police Executive Research Forum of 182 law enforcement agencies indicated that while recruiting numbers are higher than what was surveyed in 2020, departments nationwide have seen an increase of resignations to 47%, as well as a 19% increase in retirements from 2020.

“Retaining officers is a new challenge,” recruitment officer for Ohio State Highway Patrol Jim Callahan said. “Never before have departments and agencies needed to devote entire sections of their forces just to recruiting officers. It is a different challenge than what I remember dealing with when I was first applying. Before you had to show you could be a police officer, pass training and work hard for a position, now most departments are happy just to have someone fill out an application that seems interested.”

Large agencies are not the only ones having staffing issues either, small departments are also feeling the hurt of low police numbers.

New Franklin Police Sargent Jason Hemric says even departments that never had issues with staffing, are facing challenges to find officers.

“Departments like New Franklin always had a list of officers who were just waiting to transfer to a smaller town like this, now we struggle to entice new academy recruits to come.”

Sgt. Hemric also says that New Franklin has had to decrease patrols from 3 officers at a time down to 2.

“We prefer to have three officers on patrol at any given time, but since we are short staffed, we had to decrease our patrols to only 2 officers at a time. On busy days, like New Years Eve, we were still able to get 3 patrols, but on normal days of the year, we just run with 2 patrols,” Sgt. Hemric said.

“When you call the police, they come out, take some notes and that’s it. Never get a follow-up or new information.”

Small business owner Robin Hornish

Small businesses are also feeling the effects of shorter police staffs, Robin Hornish owns her family’s hardware store, which has been in business over 40 years. She says that the low numbers of officers in Akron have caused an increase in break-ins and robberies.

“My store has been broken into twice since 2022,” Hornish said. “When you call the police, they come out, take some notes and that’s it. Never get a follow-up or new information. The officers even tell you once they come out that they probably won’t be able to find who broke in. It’s frustrating, but something that all these businesses deal with, not just mine.”

New Franklin resident Ashley Miller says that the shorter staff at the New Franklin Police Department has made response times longer than necessary.

“I was rear-ended last fall, and when I called the police to file a report, it took over 30 minutes for them to arrive. When the officer did arrive, he told me that both officers were dealing with other incidents at the time. I understand that I was in just a little accident, but what if it were something more serious, would I be safe,” Miller said.

Despite efforts by law enforcement agencies to recruit and retain police officers, the nationwide trend of resignations and retirements is exacerbating the problem. As a result, businesses are experiencing an increase in break-ins and robberies, while residents are experiencing longer response times for emergencies. Addressing these challenges will require collaborative efforts from both law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve to ensure public safety remains a top priority. 

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