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Posted: 3/27/2006 4:08:56 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 3/27/2006 4:09:55 AM EDT by Greywolf2112]
www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12029579/

LONG BEACH, Calif. - Police departments around the country are contending with a shortage of officers and trying to lure new applicants with signing bonuses, eased standards, house down payments and extra vacation time.

From this seaside Southern California city to Washington's suburbs, more than 80 percent of the nation's 17,000 law enforcement agencies, big and small, have vacancies that many can't fill, police officials estimate.

"I was just at a conference of police chiefs," said William Bratton, the chief of police in Los Angeles, which has 720 openings. "It was all everybody was talking about."

Police officials and researchers say a confluence of demographic changes and social trends have precipitated the shortage. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have siphoned off public-service-minded people to the military. Hundreds of law enforcement officers have handed in their badges to take higher-paying positions in the booming homeland security industry.

And each year an increasingly large number of baby-boomer officers, hired in the 1970s, retires. The labor pool in the next generation is smaller, further cutting the number of prospective applicants.

The younger generation is better educated than its predecessor, so a career in policing, where the average starting salary is $32,000, is not as attractive as it was before.

Prince William, Fairfax and Loudoun counties all have recently instituted programs -- signing bonuses, bounties for county employees recommending successful candidates, and pay increases -- designed to keep their police departments intact.

In the District, officials said they have noticed increased competition for applicants but are not facing a shortage. But Prince George's County began a $1 million advertising campaign last summer touting police work as exciting and challenging in the hope of boosting its chronically understaffed ranks. The force is 60 officers short of its authorized complement of 1,420 officers.

Past drug use
Elsewhere, departments have dropped their zero-tolerance policy on drug use and past gang association, eased restrictions on applicants with bad credit ratings, and tweaked physical requirements to make room for more female candidates or smaller male candidates, police officials said. Departments also offer crash courses in reading and remedial English for the written parts of the entrance exam, and provide strength and agility coaches for the physical part -- all of which have raised concerns about how qualified some of the new personnel will be.

"We no longer say if you've smoked marijuana five times, you can't be in the LAPD," said Cmdr. Kenneth Garner, who runs recruitment for the Los Angeles Police Department. "If we did that, I'd be sitting in this office by myself. But we really take a hard look at honesty."

In the past, some recruitment drives have resulted in questionable hiring. In 1989 and 1990, the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, seeking to quell a crime wave, mistakenly hired numerous gang members and people with substantial criminal histories and drug and credit problems. Some were later implicated in questionable police shootings.

Experts said that while they hope the inherently conservative nature of law enforcement agencies will protect against a slew of bad hires, there is a concern that with a smaller pool of applicants, less-qualified people are becoming police officers.

"That is clearly a concern, and police chiefs are very uneasy about that possibility," said Hubert Williams, president of the Police Foundation, a law enforcement advocacy group. "The question is, do we keep our radio cars empty or hire people who a few years ago we wouldn't have hired? It is very problematic."

‘Salvageable’
Williams said that some departments are hiring applicants with criminal records. "A few years ago, an arrest record was a deal breaker," he said. "Now departments are asking whether someone is salvageable."

To fill the void, police recruiters are fanning out across the country. When layoffs were announced in the automotive industry in Detroit, recruiters flocked there to try to sign up furloughed assembly-line workers. Police recruiters comb the beaches of Florida, California and Texas during spring break and conduct ad campaigns -- on billboards, in newspapers, on radio and TV -- at a level unprecedented in the history of U.S. policing.

Police officials say the shortage of police officers has hit law enforcement agencies west of the Mississippi particularly hard because they historically have carried smaller staffs. For example, New York City has twice as many people as Los Angeles but nearly four times as many police -- about 37,000, compared with L.A.'s 9,600 -- and last week announced plans to hire 800 more.

In Texas, the need for law enforcement officers is so great that Dallas, Austin and Houston are in the midst of a bidding war to hire veteran officers, with Houston recently upping its bonus to $7,000.

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, one of the country's more aggressive recruiters, recently drew the line on tattoos, branding and body piercing -- but left some wiggle room. If the body art can be covered by a long-sleeved shirt and pants, then applications are still welcome.


To find new recruits, the San Diego County Sheriff's Department has offered a $500 bounty to county employees who find applicants who become deputies. The sheriff's department, like many agencies, used to frown on transfers from other departments, but now such lateral hires are given a signing bonus of $5,000.

Mike Farrell was lured over to the San Diego County Sheriff's Department from the San Diego city police force in December. The six-year police veteran got $5,000 to sign, better hours, the chance to clock more overtime and the promise of a fatter pension when he retires. The San Diego city government is tottering toward bankruptcy, so law enforcement recruiters from around the country, including Honolulu and Phoenix (which is sweetening its offer with a down payment on a house), have been picking over its force. Of Farrell's original squad of six on the city police force, he said, only two remain.

"When I first started applying, there were 100 applicants as qualified as I was," said Farrell, 33. "Now they are having a hard time finding 25 to 30 people like that."

In past decades, police departments were hampered by budget cuts. But now, even when there is adequate funding, cities can't find enough cops. In 2004, voters in Oakland approved a $9 million tax increase to hire 63 additional officers to increase the ranks of that police department to 802. Today the city is nowhere close to meeting its recruitment goal because there are not enough suitable applicants.

"People are not as equipped or as inclined to be police officers as in the past," said Barbara Raymond, who has researched the police shortage for Rand Corp. "There's more drug use, there's a more sedentary lifestyle. People are more in debt and overweight."

"What you are really talking about is a major national shortage in a variety of sectors -- teachers, firefighters, nurses and police officers," said Williams, the Police Foundation president. "Corporate America can move across the world to find people to work in its factories. But there are some things that you can't outsource." And unlike the nursing industry, which has attracted thousands of overseas applicants to the United States, most, if not all, police departments require candidates to be U.S. citizens.

Changing duties
Policing also has changed, Raymond noted in her report for Rand. The job is far from the adrenaline-packed hook 'em and book 'em, car chase stereotype of the past. As cities around the nation become more culturally diverse and police departments embrace community policing tactics, officers are often pushed to deal with the root causes of crime, becoming more social worker than cop.

The events of Sept. 11, 2001, have put new stresses on police work. In Long Beach, for example, the terrorist attacks prompted the department of 1,000 officers to create its first counterterrorism unit and a special port unit. To do it, Long Beach reduced foot patrols, cut staffing in the narcotics division and switched most officers from two-person to one-person patrol cars.

There are concerns, said Elaine Deck, a researcher at the International Association of Chiefs of Police, that staffing changes and shortages could affect public safety and the well-being of law enforcement officers. The LAPD, for example, is too short-staffed to investigate complaints against its officers, so that many complaints from 2005 may not result in punishment until this year.

"When you have single officers in vehicles, a lack of backup, slower response time, cuts in prevention programs and fewer school resource officers, things obviously could be affected," Deck said. Also, with fewer recruits entering the system and a large number of veterans exiting, officers' street knowledge -- critical to effective law enforcement -- is evaporating. It used to take 10 years to make sergeant. Now in many bigger departments, people are getting promotions after only two.

Staff writers Allison Klein and Del Wilber in Washington contributed to this report.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company



Fucking lovely - now we get weak, ex-drug users and gang bangers responsible for our safety? And people with bad credit who may use their powers to steal your credit information or steal from you to pay their bills? Yeah, THAT is going to work out well. And at the same time these Chiefs of Police are trying to disarm US by saying we aren't qualified or trained to have weapons. Maybe what they need to do is allow for more private citizens to be Volunteer Deputies.
Link Posted: 3/27/2006 4:19:07 AM EDT
We could always tap the available pool of illegal aliens to stock are police forces with...
Link Posted: 3/27/2006 4:20:43 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 3/27/2006 4:21:27 AM EDT by Colt_sporter]
By the standard of which a person I know who became a cop--quite recently in fact, I had though they have been doing that for a long time. And not just in Ca. I mean, they had to have lowered the standards to let him in.
Link Posted: 3/27/2006 4:22:04 AM EDT
Disparate impact again.

Link Posted: 3/27/2006 4:30:04 AM EDT

Prince George's County began a $1 million advertising campaign

That would go a long way towards bonuses that would make the existing officers happier! It's much, much cheaper to keep a trained officer on the job than it is to find a new guy and train him. Give the money to the guys doing the job, not to some ad agency.z
Link Posted: 3/27/2006 4:31:46 AM EDT
Link Posted: 3/27/2006 4:46:57 AM EDT
Link Posted: 3/27/2006 4:49:28 AM EDT

Originally Posted By Smalls:
We could always tap the available pool of illegal aliens to stock are police forces with...



[Lewis Black]

First you learn English, then.....we'll give you bullets.

[/Lewis Black]
Link Posted: 3/27/2006 4:56:06 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 3/27/2006 4:56:39 AM EDT by watersniper]
We consistently can't fill our openings because the pay is comparatively low and the standards are high. Our chief said he'll leave positions unfilled vs. hiring idiots that we would have to just fire later. They are scrutinizing more and more here, to the point of not hiring guys due to average/lower credit scores! You have a lot of credit debt, don't even bother applying! Let alone having smoked pot a few years ago, or having a formerly bad driving record, etc. etc.
Link Posted: 3/27/2006 4:56:33 AM EDT
Link Posted: 3/27/2006 4:56:49 AM EDT
Gee, isn't that lovely. Local law enforcement becomes weaker and possibly more corrupt but I'm sure the that Feds will be more than willing to step in and provide "assistance" (for the right price) as they seem to do with every fucking thing else in this country.

There are umpteen dozen heavily armed, militarized Federal alphabet agencies out there that I'm sure many empire building bureaucrats would love see expand their influence and power. Tin foil-ish? Time will tell.
Link Posted: 3/27/2006 4:57:37 AM EDT

Originally Posted By John_Wayne777:

Originally Posted By Smalls:
We could always tap the available pool of illegal aliens to stock are police forces with...



[Lewis Black]

First you learn English, then.....we'll give you bullets.

[/Lewis Black]



They are just doing the jobs that americans won't do.
Link Posted: 3/27/2006 5:50:50 AM EDT
It seems the recruitment problem is only in cities/counties with higher-than-average cost of living. It's kind of backwards to decrease hiring standards so people willing to accept lower wages will apply. There are qualified people who could apply but won't because the pay is too low. As bad as I hate taxation, cities and counties with a police officer shortage need to increase taxes to fund a larger police force and provide higher salaries or give some kind of tax break or extra benefits.
Link Posted: 3/27/2006 5:55:20 AM EDT
It's not a shortage of qualified applicants overall. It's a shortage of qualified applicants that are specifically willing to work in your pesthole of a city for starvation wages.
Link Posted: 3/27/2006 5:59:22 AM EDT
Hell, handbasket.

Handbasket, hell.


Link Posted: 3/27/2006 6:06:43 AM EDT
"Rampart was the story of gangsters who became cops. Not cops who became gansters."
Link Posted: 3/27/2006 6:08:28 AM EDT
People in general will put up with a lot of shi*t if you pay them well.
Start em at 40K and top out at 60K+ and you will have more applicants
than you know what to do with. Freakin' mailman makes more than LEO's do.
Link Posted: 3/27/2006 7:23:41 AM EDT

Originally Posted By MTUSA:
People in general will put up with a lot of shi*t if you pay them well.
Start em at 40K and top out at 60K+ and you will have more applicants
than you know what to do with. Freakin' mailman makes more than LEO's do.



If I stay where I'm at I will NEVER see $60k even after working here 20 more years 'till retirement. We just got through three years of pay freezes all the while they added a part time position that subsequently turns into a training position for people who are straight out of the acerdemy. they often move on to a FT positino elsewhere. But then again the boss can say he added to the force... Meanwhile we now have a turnover issue with these PT people and spend lots of time and money training 5-10 new officers every year. When we were all FT we would go years without a new hire.
Link Posted: 3/27/2006 9:13:02 AM EDT

Originally Posted By watersniper:

Originally Posted By MTUSA:
People in general will put up with a lot of shi*t if you pay them well.
Start em at 40K and top out at 60K+ and you will have more applicants
than you know what to do with. Freakin' mailman makes more than LEO's do.



If I stay where I'm at I will NEVER see $60k even after working here 20 more years 'till retirement. We just got through three years of pay freezes all the while they added a part time position that subsequently turns into a training position for people who are straight out of the acerdemy. they often move on to a FT positino elsewhere. But then again the boss can say he added to the force... Meanwhile we now have a turnover issue with these PT people and spend lots of time and money training 5-10 new officers every year. When we were all FT we would go years without a new hire.



Ouch. Sounds like you need to move.

There's some agency departments that I can count on one hand that start out rookies at/near what you would never max out at.
Link Posted: 3/27/2006 9:22:49 AM EDT

Originally Posted By -brass-:
As soon as they come up with the part-time volunteer LEO position that lets you be a cop when you want (1 day/month?), but still get Nationwide CCW and cool toys, plus a free indoor range w/unlimited ammo, I'll sign up.



Uhh, you can do that depending on the area.
Link Posted: 3/27/2006 9:35:28 AM EDT
I went and took the NYPD exam 3 years ago because I was thinking of going into law enforcement. I decided on another career path and I sill get letters ever other month asking me to come and finish the application process. I scored a 98% on the written, I figure that must have been good after looking around the room in the Bronx at all the other applicants. Not a lot of clean shaven high and tight looking people applying.
Link Posted: 3/27/2006 9:43:05 AM EDT
Tag
Link Posted: 3/27/2006 9:52:57 AM EDT
My department has such a program and they qualify for HR 218 too.
Once they graduate from the academy they have to work an average of 20 hours a month.


Originally Posted By -brass-:
As soon as they come up with the part-time volunteer LEO position that lets you be a cop when you want (1 day/month?), but still get Nationwide CCW and cool toys, plus a free indoor range w/unlimited ammo, I'll sign up.

Link Posted: 3/27/2006 11:11:17 AM EDT
This is not anything new. It has been going on for quite a while, it's just that the situation has gotten worse.

Back in the 80's and 90's there were so many applicants that they had to have tight criteria to weed out as many applicants as possible. In the mid to late 90's the applicant pools started to dry up and at the same time alot of the cops hired during the law enforcement boom in the 70's started coming up on 25 year retirement.
In the face of a hiring crisis some departments started relaxing their hiring criteria by allowing applicants who had experimented with marijauna or who had a non-violent misdemeanor conviction in their past as long as they were upfront and honest about them and a certain amount of time had transpired since the transgression. Many of these newer officers have proven to be good solid police officers.



Originally Posted By Airwolf:
Gee, isn't that lovely. Local law enforcement becomes weaker and possibly more corrupt but I'm sure the that Feds will be more than willing to step in and provide "assistance" (for the right price) as they seem to do with every fucking thing else in this country.

There are umpteen dozen heavily armed, militarized Federal alphabet agencies out there that I'm sure many empire building bureaucrats would love see expand their influence and power. Tin foil-ish? Time will tell.

Link Posted: 3/27/2006 11:26:32 AM EDT
The last time they hired in my city. There were 10 positions to be filled, over 450 applied.
Link Posted: 3/27/2006 11:37:56 AM EDT

Originally Posted By John_Wayne777:
Disparate impact again.




Sorry are you actually saying that some politician/political police officewent through a chain of though that went; "we don't have enough [minority group] in the force..." lots of [minority] belong to gangs... therefore if we don't let gang members in, we wont fill our quota's and end up with a representative force?"

FFS, I really do despair.

That said, I'm sure in some individual cases, prior gang membership could come hand in hand with a wish to make ammends and do something good for a change. Once in a blue moon...

/PHil
Link Posted: 3/27/2006 11:42:42 AM EDT
lower standards! I dont even need to speak engligh? I am gonna go sign up! see ya guys later LAPD here I come.
Link Posted: 3/27/2006 11:44:23 AM EDT
I'm glad. So many millions of people are disqualified for having smoked pot. BIG FRIGGIN DEAL! As long as you havent pawned your belongings to buy a bag (then we have to disqualify everyone who has scraped together beer money, too) you're not a dishonor to the badge. Gimme a break. Don't smoke while a cop, and don't drink much either.

Link Posted: 3/27/2006 11:47:39 AM EDT

Originally Posted By John_Wayne777:

Originally Posted By Smalls:
We could always tap the available pool of illegal aliens to stock are police forces with...



[Lewis Black]

First you learn English, then.....we'll give you bullets.

[/Lewis Black]

What I was thinking of too!
Link Posted: 3/27/2006 3:27:03 PM EDT
When I hired on they would hire people who tried MJ three times or less. Now they will hire females who admitt to Meth use as long as none in the last 3 years.
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