A major shortage of police recruits has reached crisis proportions in some cities, with fewer cops on the street than top brass say are needed for public protection, says the Christian Science Monitor. The problem has several sources: low pay, a hole left by retiring baby boomers, and an image problem that steers the few young people who are interested in law-enforcement careers toward crime-scene investigation and forensics, rather than everyday street patrols. Some law-enforcement agencies are getting creative, giving new recruits help with down payments on homes and, for experienced officers in other locales, they are offering signing bonuses for switching to a new city. They’re encouraging their own officers to find new recruits in exchange for extra vacation time. “I haven’t been to a place in this country where agencies aren’t concerned about the number and quality of their officers,” says Elaine Deck of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
Most police departments report they are 10 percent shy of the numbers they need. Law-enforcement agencies say the consequences are slower emergency-response times and backlogs in criminal cases. The Houston Police Department wants to offer $7,000 signing bonuses to any police officer who moves to the city and completes a 12-week modified training academy. At the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, officials say similar incentives are working. Down 10 percent on its staffing earlier this year, the department tripled its advertising budget and began offering signing bonuses of up to $5,000.