The 10 largest police departments in the U.S., with the exception of the San Francisco Police Department, have experienced an alarming increase in retirements and resignations this year.
According to a study by the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund (LELDF), researchers found an 18% increase in voluntary law enforcement departures, including a 24% increase in resignations and 14% increase in retirements, among active police memberships from June 1, 2020, to April 30, 2021 compared to the same period the year before.
The study focused on data from an array of departments chosen for their size and their proximity to anti-police protests, including Cleveland; Pittsburgh; Austin; Las Vegas; Chicago; San Jose; Los Angeles County; Washington, D.C.; San Francisco and Miami-Dade. LELDF requested data from 30 agencies in total – some agencies, such as NYPD, did not comply with offering data.
The trend suggests that following the police brutality protests last year, many police officers have reconsidered working in law enforcement – or at least staying in large departments.
LELDF President Jason Johnson summarized: “In the wake of the anti-police movement and Floyd protests, cops – unwanted and unappreciated by their political leaders – officers are running for the exits. Resignations and retirements at the largest police agencies in the United States are skyrocketing while recruitment is tanking.”
The study found that the biggest motivations for leaving were related to the negative social climate.
“I wouldn’t take [a job as a police chief],” former NYPD Commissioner and current LAPD Chief Bill Bratton said. “The ability to succeed in this climate … the progressive district attorneys’ policies just aren’t going to work.”
Cleveland had the biggest increase in retirements, experiencing a 130% increase, while Austin came in second with a 63% increase. The outliers were San Francisco and Pittsburgh police departments – SF saw a decrease in resignations and retirements, while Pittsburgh saw a decrease only in resignations.
Austin Police Chief Joseph Chacon said the loss in officers is a “crisis.” Austin Crime Commission member Cary Roberts noted a 96% recent increase in murders, which makes the results of the study more alarming.
Kevin Lawrence, who serves as executive director of the Texas Municipal Police Association, said the loss of manpower will make it difficult to combat crime.
“When they get there, they then likely have to wait for back-up. They don’t have the resources they need to actually address whatever the situation is.”
The Austin Police Department currently has 300 sworn officer vacancies. At the same time, the city has seen a 56% increase in homicides. Meanwhile, in Chicago, there has been a 52% increase in homicides correlated with a 20% spike in retirements and resignations.
Chicago Democratic Alderman Matt O’Shea criticized the justice system as damaging officer morale. “We see thousands of criminals released. When I talk to police officers on the street, I hear repeatedly they feel that leadership in the city, people in the city, do not support them.”