Vacancies Remain in Many Police Departments

WASHINGTON – Nationwide there is a shortage of police officers, and police departments are having a difficult time filling positions.

According to the Washington Post, more than 80 percent of U.S. law enforcement agencies are having difficulty attracting new recruits. The Los Angeles Police Department, for example, has 720 openings.

There are several reasons for the shortage, say police officials and researchers: Many former officers have taken positions in the homeland security industry; Others are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan; Officers born in the baby boom era are retiring; and the average pay of $32,000 is not as attractive to the younger generation, which is better educated.

To counter these challenges, many agencies are offering signing bonuses, eased standards, house down payments and extra vacation time to new recruits. Zero-tolerance drug and gang-affiliation policies have been dropped by some departments. Previous occasional use of marijuana, for example, is no longer as much of a barrier to entry.

Credit rating restrictions are also being eased, as are the physical requirements, which previously prevented some female and smaller candidates from being accepted. Some agencies are even accepting applicants with criminal records.

To help candidates pass the physical and written exams, police departments are offering fitness training, reading classes and remedial English courses. Recruiters have also targeted areas like Detroit that have experienced industry layoffs.

Agencies west of the Mississippi, even if they have adequate funding, have been particularly hard hit by the shortage because they usually have smaller forces. Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas, Las Vegas and San Diego are all experiencing problems with recruitment.

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