Nationwide scrutiny of police behavior is complicating the recruitment and retention of officers for some departments, including some small ones in the Twin City suburbs, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune. In Anoka County, applications for deputy jobs have plummeted. A college that trains Minnesota officers has seen students drop out after their families expressed fears for their safety. “My concern is as we look forward and we see this … war being waged on our protectors, the good-hearted people are not going to want to take on the job anymore,” said Anoka County Sheriff James Stuart. The trend is playing out nationally too, where the number of applicants for police jobs is lower and retaining current officers has become more challenging, said Bill Johnson of the National Association of Police Organizations. “The unfair criticism of police and, from our point of view, the painting of a very broad brush that all officers and police departments are racist or brutal based on [a handful] of cases … and these targeted murders of police officers, are making it difficult to attract and retain qualified officers,” he said. “There's a growing sense among police that it's not worth it anymore.”
The pullback isn't universal. The Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training said it's seeing more potential recruits taking licensing exams. Larger Minnesota departments still attract adequate numbers of recruits. Other factors play a role in the changing dynamics, law enforcement officials say. More officers are retiring as the result of changes in pension laws and funding, and with more police jobs available, recruits are likely to focus on the higher-paid ones in bigger cities. Police departments have been under a harsh magnifying glass since an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, was shot and killed last year in Ferguson, Mo., by a white police officer. After that and other highly publicized incidents, officers face a far more negative and suspicious climate, said Stuart, who has seen applications fall by almost half in recent years.