Friday, August 12, 2022

The Thinning Blue Line: The Growing Exodus of Police Officers

The Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) is down by 300 officers. With an authorized force of 1,328, it now has just 1,038. At the end of July this year, another 95 officers---sergeants, lieutenants, and administrative staff have the option to hang it up.  Why are so many experienced  police officers leaving?

The Louisville Metro Police Department has faced decades of mistrust from officers and the community going back to the city/county merger 2002 when dozens of county officers decided to leave rather than to be part of the newly created metro police department (which was, in fact, merely an expanded city police department). In many ways, the seeds of public distrust were planted in 1975/76 when officers were required to maintain order during the deeply opposed court ordered forced school busing.

However, it was the deaths of Breonna Taylor and David McAtee which ignited the exodus. Breonna Taylor was shot in May 2020 and killed in a botched police drug raid while Mr. McAtte, the owner of a popular BBQ restaurant in Louisville's predominately black West End, was killed in June by the Kentucky National Guard amid protests following Taylor's death (then police chief Robert White was fired shortly thereafter over the shootings, allegations of a cover-up, and concerns relating to unapproved overtime).        

To offset the shortages of officers, the city's Democrat mayor, Greg Fischer, and the Democrat dominated Metro Council authorized $218 million for the 2023 LMPD budget; $25 million more than it currently receives. This represents nearly 1/3 of the city's general fund. Nevertheless, shortages continue amid a complete distrust of top management, including the newly appointed Police Chief Erika Shields (she was the police chief, albeit an unpopular one, from Atlanta Georgia).

As an aside, the distrust and distain also extends to the current mayor, Greg Fischer as well. Fischer has been mayor since 2010 and has continued to earn poor marks in the city's low and middle class areas such as Okolona, Fern Creek, Valley Station, and Pleasure Ridge Park. His popularity among minorities as well as the police department and Metro Council (which has its own popularity problems) remain low.

LMPD has been looking for minority candidates to fill its depleted roll. It has dropped height, education, and test score requirements to make that happen, but with the shortages, almost anyone without a criminal record and in decent health will do (and even that's kinda sketchy). A new requirement say you can't "have used, possessed or sold a narcotic in the last six years"!  Like other police departments, the LMPD is trying to steal replacements wherever it can by offering lateral transfers higher salaries and improved benefit packages (fully funded pensions remain a ongoing problem)

June of 2022 had its largest new police class in three years---31 applicants, but that's far short of its previous class sizes of 48. Recently that number has been around 18 to 19 seats filled, making the 31 recruits appear increasingly more like an aberration rather than a correction.

The department remains predominately white and male (current recruitment is 71% white and male).  Females make up just under 14% of the force while men are over 86%. Whites in general (men and women) are almost 81% of the force. Blacks of both genders comprise 13.87% while 3.32% are Hispanic. Asians comprise 1.46% and Native Americans are just 0.20%.  The largest age "bubble" is between 26 and 45 years old.  

As stated above,  the money situation has improved.  The average salary after two years is now $71k plus benefits, which is a significant improvement, but the long hours, lousy shifts, and high stress environment of police life remain. LMPD Union President Ryan Nichols calls the retention situation  "dire" and added that at the present rate, the matter could become catastrophic in short order.

Minneapolis was the epicenter of the police protests. It's where George Floyd was killed in May 2020 by Officer Derek Chauvin, one of four officers called to investigate a possible counterfeit $20 dollar bill by a store clerk.  Floyd was subsequently detained (Chauvin knelt on Floyd's neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds) and died shortly afterwards (an autopsy found drugs in his system which were likely strong contributing factors to his death). Since the incident which captured the world's attention. Minneapolis has lost well over 300 of its officers.

Police retirements have jumped by 45% and resignations have increased 18%. The western Minneapolis community of Morris will disband its police force after 140 years of service by the end of the year. The reason? Not enough officers. The 5,200 strong community will use the Stevens County Police Department for its law enforcement needs.

With the decline in officers, amid demands to "defund the police" and "community monitoring", crime has skyrocketed across Minneapolis. Last year there was a record number of murders---62.  As of this March, there were 55. Carjackings for 2021 totaled 2,423. In the first third of 2022 there had already been over 3,000! 4,969 assaults were reported in 2021. By the end of the first quarter, there were already 5,573 with no relief in sight.

Back in Louisville, the situation isn't any better.  Louisville is ranked as one of the most dangerous cities in the country (in one report where "100" was the safest and "0" was basically a Dodge City, Louisville was ranked "5"). Another national site rated Louisville an "F" when it came to crime (along with its school system). Louisville's murder rate is more than double the national average and exceeds much larger cities like Chicago, Philadelphia, and Atlanta.

Violent assaults in Metro Louisville are also double the national average as are carjackings. Rapes, thankfully, are well below the national average while armed robberies, burglaries and thefts are all about 25% higher than average.

In Asheville North Carolina, more than 1/3 of the police force has quit, resigned, or retired. In New York City, one of the largest police departments in the nation, 2,600 officers called it quits in 2020. In Seattle, resignations and retirements more than tripled, 219 compared to 77. In Philadelphia, which has been racked by an increase in crime, has seen over 79 officers take early retirement thus far this year.

Chicago, a city notorious  for its crime and corruption, has been hemorrhaging police officers and civilian staff. As of April 2022, 300 officers had left. In March there were 11,669 men and women in blue. In 2021 there were 12,739, down 560 from the year before, which was further down 749 from 2019!  For 30 years, the city has never had less than 12,000 officers on duty. Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown called the exodus "generational", meaning it wasn't just the rookies leaving or the "old timers". It's across the board with newbies and experienced officers turning in their badges, along with staffers.

The reason for the mass departure of officers stems from several factors, but most notably from Mayor Lori Lightfoot's edict that everyone had to be vaccinated against Covid-19 whether they wanted to be or not. In addition, the department has seen its budget repeatedly sliced amid calls to "defund" the police (in 2020 the budget was cut by $59 million), along with an increase of assaults, mandatory overtime and a reduction in compensation.

San Francisco is facing a massive exit of police officers. San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott said that he's worry that nearly a quarter of the departments staff will walk out as their early retirement dates near.  Thus far, the city is already down by 600 officers with more expected to leave, and it gets worse.

According to Chief Scott, for every 50 officers leaving, only about eight to ten recruits are taking their place (on average, about 25 apply with roughly half being cut for one reason or another before graduating). Like most other cities, San Francisco is trying to lure officers from elsewhere with offers of more money and benefits thanks to an increased budget.

However, as Chief Scott admits, he's competing with nearly every other police department in the nation. He's also faced with the fact that San Francisco is one of the most expensive place in the country to live, especially if you're coming from out of state. As an aside, in a recent poll, 65% of residents in the Bay Area said that fear of crime was what kept them from coming to downtown San Francisco

According to the Police Executive Research Forum, a Washington DC based policy institute, a study of 200 departments nationwide showed retirements (regular and early) were up 45% while resignations rose by 18% over the period from April 2020 to April 2021. In departments with more than 500 officers, the retirement rate was over 30% while new recruitments were under 5%. Those are unsustainable numbers.

Cities like Louisville and Minneapolis weren't the only ones with out of control crime in the face of fewer officers. According to the Police Executive Research Forum, most communities were experiencing a sudden increase in violent crimes like murder, shootings, and carjackings, as well as thefts after the mandatory Covid quarantines were lifted. Large cities have had a 24% increase in killings thus far in 2022, which followed a 30% increase in 2021. By the way, don't think for a moment that criminals aren't paying attention to and targeting these areas where officer shortages are occurring. 

Yes, it's true that the police are increasingly militarized, but they face criminals and gangs with the firepower of professional militias.  According to the FBI, in 2021 129 officers died. Of those, 73 were killed in the line of duty (23 of those were unprovoked attacks while 8 were ambushed). 56 died in accidents (17 of those were pursuits or  were responding to a crime in progress). This total represents 27 more deaths in the line of duty than in 2021.

In today's two tier judicial system, too often the testimony of someone is devalued or their guilt is determined based on the perceived income level, origin, or color of their skin while an officer, politician, or judge walks despite evidence of their guilt. Meanwhile, the wealthy and powerful don't even come close to facing the same "justice" ordinary citizens deal with and even fewer face the true consequences of their actions. 

Unfortunately, there are no easy solutions. The deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, David McAtee, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, or Tamir Rice and others are more than regrettable. They are a national tragedy, as is every lost life due to a crime. Many were, for the most part, avoidable.  However, not all the blame belongs on the shoulders of the police. 

First and foremost is restoring discipline and respect for authority at home and in the schools. There's a direct correlation between doing what a teacher tells you and what a police officer tells you. However, the repercussions can be much worse.  When a cop tells you to do something, stop what you're doing, don't mouth off, and do what you're told. You keep your hands where they can be clearly seen. Don't make sudden moves, and you sure as heck don't run! I can guarantee that you're not faster than a 9mm and you're sure as hell not bulletproof. This isn't about race, gender, religion, or anything else. It's about keeping everyone safe.

 In most cases you'll get a warning or ticket and sent on your way. Get cocky, you may get a free ride downtown. If you do something stupid, you may get a trip to the hospital or morgue. If there's a problem with the stop, go see a lawyer as soon as you can and let them handle it. Otherwise chalk it up to experience. It's better to be a live plaintiff than a dead victim.

Yes, police officers and first responders need more diverse hires along with diversity training. In fact, I think everyone needs diversity training. Perhaps it should be a mandatory class in high school alongside ethics and civics. Everyone is deserving of respect and even some empathy, but not due to some misplaced sense of entitlement or self importance. But because it's the right thing to do as a human being. However, respect and empathy are a two way street. If you want it, you have to give it.

Police officers are resigning or retiring enmasse because to significant degree the public has turned against them, thanks in large part to the media. They have lost the public's respect.  Calls to defund the police force has resulted in a decrease in their ability to do their job, which is to keep the public safe and maintain order. They also must deal every day with people under the worse of circumstances. That's where the empathy comes in.


If you want to know more, please take a look at the links below. If you enjoyed the article, please consider passing it along to others and don't forget to subscribe. It's free! Lastly please be sure to "like" us on whatever platform you use to read A/O. It helps with the algorithms and keeps our articles in circulation. Thank you!  


LMPD ramps up recruitment in face of shortage

'We're at a dire level': Nearly 100 LMPD officers eligible to retire as staffing shortages continue

LMPD Demographics August 2022


Why Police Have Been Quitting in Droves in the Last Year


Minneapolis Police Department Down 300 Officers from spring2020

Minneapolis DataSource: Crime Dashboard

AreaVibes: Louisville, KY Crime

Chicago Police Staffing hits new low...

SFPD chief worries about loss of hundreds of officers amidstaffing shortages

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