A Fort Worth Police Department recruiting video featuring a look-alike of Star Wars’ Chewbacca has had nearly 3 million views online and has helped recruit up to 50 officers. The Clearwater, Fl., Police Department hopes to entice job candidates with a video that plays at outdoor concerts, pitching the areas’s surf, sandy beaches and majestic sunsets. In Houston, Harris County sheriff deputies drive vehicles inscribed with HCSOJOBS.COM to attract recruits. Police departments are scrambling to fill their ranks, Stateline reports. The loss of tens of thousands of officers over a decade has compromised police effectiveness and imposed greater demands on those still on the job. “It makes it much more difficult,” said Bill Johnson of the National Association of Police Organizations, a coalition representing 241,000 police officers. “From the public’s point of view, it’s a risk to public safety, because you have fewer officers out there to respond to calls.”
Among the causes of the officer shortage: a rash of retirements by officers from the baby boom generation, better-paying private sector jobs, a robust economy with low unemployment and grievances over salary and morale. There is also the “Ferguson effect,” a reference to protests over the killing of teenager Michael Brown by a police officer that fueled antipathy toward police, especially in minority communities. Potential applicants might think twice before plunging into a profession that could subject them to scorn. The number of police personnel reached a peak of 724,690 in 2013. Police departments lost 23,500 officers over the next three years, says the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Fewer officers means longer response times, heavier caseloads and fewer opportunities to build relations in the community. The shortages also result in more overtime shifts, which gives officers a financial boost but can increase stress, fatigue and burnout.