Police departments around the U.S. are relaxing age and fitness standards, forgiving minor criminal convictions and easing other requirements to relieve shortages in their ranks and find officers who are wiser, more worldly, and cooler-headed in a crisis, reports the Associated Press. St. Petersburg and Tampa, Fl., have dropped the need for a two-year college degree if the candidate has military or law enforcement experience. Oakland, Ca., is no longer disqualifying applicants for minor, long-ago drug convictions or gang involvement. Boston this spring raised the upper age limit for recruits from 32 to 40.
The relaxation of standards — a trend that emerged in Associated Press interviews and reviews of policies in 50 cities — has been prompted in large part by a dire need for police recruits. A federally funded study last spring by the Police Executive Research Forum, a Washington advocacy group for police chiefs and commissioners, found that 10 percent of the nation’s police departments had severe shortages of officers. “There’s a real demand for really good people, and there’s a limited supply,” said Chuck Wexler, director of the Police Executive Research Forum. “Cities are having to take a second look at their recruitment standards.” Said Gilbert Moore, spokesman for the Justice Department, “There is a ovement afoot to focus more on people who are creative problem-solvers.”