Tuesday, January 3, 2017
As Black Lives Matter Demand Changes, Police Assassinations And Killings Reduce Recruitment Of New Officers. What Are We Going To Do When No One Wants To Be A Cop?
Attacks on Police, Rigorous
Tests Behind Nationwide
Detroit-area police agencies not alone as cop jobs go unfilled. Law
enforcement nationwide in “crisis situation with staffing,” expert says.
Targeted attacks on police, candidates who can’t pass stringent
background checks and physical agility tests, and shrinking benefits
packages are among the factors contributing to the nation’s latest
hiring crisis — the ability to attract law enforcement officers. Experts
say the shortage of qualified applicants to adequately staff police
departments has implications for the future if something isn’t done
now to reverse the trend.
The number of police officers on the streets in Michigan — including
municipal officers, county sheriff’s deputies and tribal law
enforcement authorities — has been declining since 2001, when
there were 22,488, to the current 18,399 as of Oct. 31, according
to the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards.
In one suburban Detroit police department — Roseville in Macomb
County — Police Chief James Berlin said that in recent years, he’s
had trouble finding the same caliber of applicant among the few
who do show interest in law enforcement jobs.
A decade ago, he might receive 200 applications for two or three
police job openings, Berlin told The Detroit News. Now, he gets
25 or so for two times the number of positions, and half of those
don’t make it past the background check.
Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard, who heads one of the
largest sheriff’s departments in the country, had similar frustrations
last summer. He had been trying to fill about 165 positions that had
been vacant since the Great Recession, but a shortage in qualified
applicants meant he would have to rely on costly overtime to avoid
coverage gaps that would be felt by residents.
“Overtime can burn you out and you want people, obviously, sharp
and rested and you want them to have a family life,” Bouchard said
at the time.
Bouchard is reaching out to members of the military as well as private
and charter schools to prepare youths for law enforcement careers.
The situation is similar in Wayne County, where Sheriff Benny
Napoleon has nearly 200 open positions.
“We’re doing everything that we can afford to do at this time, but
it’s still a challenge,” Napoleon told The Detroit News of his agency’s
recruiting efforts, which include a professional staffing recruiter,
outreach at churches, community groups, fraternities and sororities,
as well as a new co-op study program through the county’s
David Harvey, the executive director of the Michigan Commission
on Law Enforcement Standards, told The Detroit News that police
agencies as a whole are at “a crisis situation with staffing” that will
only worsen in years to come. Like Bouchard, he noted big reductions
in police agency staffing as property tax receipts and revenue sharing
“Some places, people moved out,” said Harvey, a former Garden City
police chief and city manager. “You add that up and there’s a loss of
revenue into the communities for cities to pay for those services. So
they had to cut somewhere.”
Nationally, applicants for police positions were down 90 percent in
mid-2016, ABC News reported. Cops have among the most dangerous
jobs in America, Seattle police recruiter Jim Ritter told the network.
“You can get shot at for $40,000, or be home with your family for
$60,000,” Ritter said.
2016 a Deadly Year for Police
In Detroit, three police officers were killed in 2016. On Nov. 22,
Wayne State University Police Sgt. Collin Rose was shot in the head
and died a day later. A man who had been arrested was released
after police admitted they had the wrong suspect. Detroit Police
Officer Myron Jarrett died Oct. 29 after he was struck in a hit-and- run crash on Oct. 29. Detroit Police Sgt. Kenneth Steil died unexpectedly on Sept. 17 when a blood clot stopped his heart. He had
been shot in the shoulder five days earlier by a fleeing suspect but
had been expected to recover.
According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund,
135 officers were killed in the line of duty in 2016, the highest level
in five years. Michigan, where six police officers died in the line of
duty in 2016, had one of the highest totals, surpassed by Texas (17),
California (10), Louisiana (nine) and Georgia (eight).
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Michigan's other line-of-duty deaths included two Berrien County
court bailiffs, Joseph Zangaro and Ronald Kienzle, who were shot
and killed by an inmate on July 11. The third Michigan police
officer killed in the line of duty was Branch County Deputy Sheriff
Michael Winter, who was fatally injured when he was thrown from a horse while on special detail at a Memorial Day parade in
The 135 line-of-duty deaths included 64 shooting deaths — 21 of
them the result of ambush attacks, the highest total of such deaths
in more than two decades, the group said in its 2016 Law Enforcement Fatalities Report.
One of the deadliest of those attacks was in Dallas on July 8, 2016.
A Redford Township, Michigan, native, former Wayne County
Sheriff's Deputy Michael Krol, was among five police officers killed
in the sniper attack that targeted police as payback for police shootings
of two black men earlier in the week.
“It’s a lot harder sell now,” Jeff Roorda, business manager of the
St. Louis Police Officers Association, told FoxNews.com. “This
is a very real phenomenon.”
Roorda was targeted with a Twitter hashtag — #KillRoorda — after
he defended police in the Ferguson, Missouri, shooting of Michael
Brown. “You no longer have to worry about your life while in
uniform,” Roorda told Fox News. “Now you have to be worried
about the well-being of your family.”
Jim Paul, who retired from the Michigan State Police in the early
2000s after nearly 30 years of service, told The Detroit News he
doesn’t know if he would choose the same career path today. “It’s
totally different than when I came in,” he told the newspaper.
“I’ve never seen police officers targeted for assaults and
assassinations like what’s going on today.”
Experts say the difficulty filling positions could result in more crime.
“More and more, departments are finding that people are reluctant
to consider policing as a career, because of the tension that exists in
communities across the country,” Darrel Stephens, executive director
of the Major Cities Chiefs Police Association, told USA Today. “It’s
particularly tough in communities of color. The reality is those are
exactly the people we need.”
Police agencies across the country are changing their recruiting
tactics in minority communities that are under-represented in
police ranks. For example, in Wichita, Kansas, where Hispanics
make up about 15 percent of the city’s population but only 7 percent
of the police force, efforts are underway to make the force more
reflective of the community it serves.
In Detroit, the police department is focusing on recruiting more
women so its numbers of female police officers more closely match
other cities. The Detroit Police Department has also put its
applications online, developed a college intern program and has
expanded its field recruiting, especially as Detroit works to shake
its image as an unsafe city.
“It’s absolutely critical to recruit because we have so many different
initiatives,” First Assistant Chief Lashinda Stair told The Detroit
News. “We want to continue to put as many people on the ground
as possible because we all know that in order to continue to bring
people here to Detroit to work, live and play, we need to make sure
that the city is safe.”
The Michigan State Police is recruiting minorities as well and
recently held a recruiting seminar at Detroit’s Second Ebenezer
Church. There are currently 1,065 troopers on the roads in Michigan,
and the agency plans to be at the Detroit North American
International Auto Show this month.