“DO MORE WITH LESS.” This phrase has become more of a mantra where it concerns law enforcement in recruitment and retaining qualified law enforcement officers nationwide. Nationally in the news, there are concerns of having the resources available to combat the rising national crime average. Officers are retiring at alarming rates leaving vacancies to be filled and losing experience in the field. Additionally, recruitment and staffing issues are falling short to fill these vacancies and crime statistics appear to show crime rates are on the rise (Holloran, September 22, 2023).
A survey given to the Illinois Association of Police Chiefs in February of 2022 revealed that recruitment and retention of law enforcement officers was one of the largest concerns. From 2020-2021, the average amount of resignations went up by 65% and retirements 7%. This leads to departments looking to fill vacancies from lateral applicants which “steals” from other agencies (Thomas, September 2, 2022). Amid the fact that police departments are facing an exodus of experienced LEOs, interest among the eligible employment candidates is on the decline.
Another consideration besides less LEOs on the street, is legislative actions which create an environment favorable to the criminally inclined. Illinois on September 18th, 2023 became the front-runner in the race of bail reform to enact a cashless bail system where bail hearings were converted to “pre-trial detention hearings” which require more time to weigh whether to release someone without a bond being posted or if substantial evidence can be provided that the person is a flight risk or danger to the community be kept until trial. Concerns were raised over this new act as to whether law enforcement will be able to adequately protect the very communities they serve with people being released even before the ink on the report is dry (or even started), victim’s rights taking a backseat, and additional costs to the legal system without resources afforded by the posting of bonds (Nowicki and Meisel, September 15, 2023).
Nationwide, a legislative reform in policing has caused concern among citizens and LEOs alike to the very protections afforded by the security of a legal system for the protection of the citizens and law enforcement’s ability to protect the communities which they serve.
Considering the current state of the union regarding law enforcement’s abilities to enforce laws, the media portrayal of law enforcement, and the mass exodus of experienced law enforcement officers nationwide, is there any wonder why police face recruitment issues? Why would anyone want to become a part of a noble profession where much is stacked in the deck against LEOs?
All of this has created what I term as a “Blue Drain.” This refers not only to diminishing numbers of LEOs but also to the stress involved in “doing the job” and the increased demands for law enforcement to do more with less resources. An additional consideration is regarding the diminishing rewards to pinning the badge on, such as new tier levels in retirement being created that is less rewarding to public servants requiring a higher age to collect benefits and longer commitment to the occupation. “The job” is already an extremely stressful endeavor for those that pursue it but compounding the diminished rewards and the lack of resources, and lack of support, this profession has become less appealing to those who seek joining the ranks and those currently employed as a LEO.
The “Blue Drain” has and will continue to be a great cause of concern for the foreseeable future. I have been a LEO long enough to know that the pendulum of justice will eventually swing back to become more favorable for law enforcement, but the question arises, at what cost, and damage done by this social experiment? Can our nation recover from this?
Keep safe, watch each other’s six, and know that there are many who support you against the odds.
“An Officer Shortage Crisis Facing San Francisco-and the Nation” by Halloran, Martin OFFICER.COM, September 22, 2023, viewed October 1, 2023 https://www.officer.com/command-hq/article/53073054/an-officer-shortage-crisis-facing-san-franciscoand-the-nation
“Illinois Law Enforcement Faces Recruitment Issues” by Thomas, Andre, WICS, September 2, 2022, viewed October 1, 2023 https://newschannel20.com/news/local/illinois-law-enforcement-faces-recruitment-issues
“Ahead of Cash Bail’s end, Illinois’ replacement pretrial Justice System Takes Shape” By Nowicki, Jerry and Meisel, Hannah Capitol News Illinois, September 15, 2023, viewed October 1, 2023 https://www.wqad.com/article/news/politics/illinois-politics/illinois-replacement-pretrial-justice-system-taking-shape-ahead-end-of-cash-bail/526-8ec8fa7c-b805-4e44-84d2-498fb79667f6
Kurt Barbour (retired - DuPage County Sheriff’s Office, IL)