Nashville’s six police precincts have a serious shortage of officers, forcing supervisors to juggle vacation schedules and borrow manpower from specialized units just to provide basic police services, says The Tennessean. As of last week, the Metro Police Department was more than 117 officers short of the number it says it needs to be fully staffed. The 15 percent shortage mirrors a nationwide trend of police departments’ finding it increasingly difficult to attract qualified people interested in doing the dangerous and sometimes thankless job of a police officer.
The situation has grown even more dire since Sept. 11, 2001, when federal authorities stepped up their own recruiting efforts, luring many law-enforcement professionals with better pay and hours. The shortage is also aggravated by the retirements of baby boomers. “We’ve lost a lot of good candidates because this is a really competitive field, especially after 9/11,” said Lt. Leon Kimble, a Nashville police recruiting specialist. “Everybody is looking for the same person. Someone who can pass the physical and written tests, numerous background checks, and still be standing tall at the end of it.” During the past five years, about 47 percent of the 510 officers who left the department resigned; about 45% retired. During the election two months ago that swept the Teamsters in as the officers’ union, some officers demanded a better pension plan and complained that they are required to spend too much time enforcing traffic laws.