Police departments in Kansas City, Missouri, are experiencing staffing woes after the “Great Resignation” has led to a shortage of officers.
Industries across the country have been impacted by what some are calling “the great resignation” — an epidemic of workers quitting their jobs since the COVID pandemic began. Police departments are no exception.
In Missouri, the problem is familiar. The Kansas City Police Department recently had to disband some of their special units like the Cold Case and Missing Persons Unit to fill the ranks of patrols to fulfil more pressing public safety needs, while the Independence Police Department had to cut back on its Community Service Unit.
The IPD is currently struggling with a 16% staff reduction. The smaller-sized department is budgeted for 230 officers and has 38 vacancies.
Other departments’ numbers are also down and may experience further reductions if senior officers decide to retire. Overland Park is down 12%, Gladstone 19%, Kansas City, Missouri, 17% and Kansas City, Kansas, 8%.
Even departments outside of the metro area, such as the Parsons Police Department, are down 15% — up from 25% a few months ago.
To boost recruitment, the IPD is offering an $8,000 signing bonus to individuals with no experience and $10,000 to licensed officers.
Police work has been harder since the COVID-19 pandemic and the increase in violent crime across the country.
“You miss kids’ practices, you miss birthdays, you miss holidays,” Officer Jack Taylor with the Independence Police Department said. He also referenced the dangers inherent to the job.
“The reality sets in that, you know, this could happen, and this is a possibility,” Taylor said.
Two IPD officers have also died this year. Officer Blaize Madrid-Evans was shot and killed in the line of duty, and Sergeant John Bullard Jr. died of COVID-19.
“I think people look at that, and they sit back and say, ‘you know what? That’s really not something I think I’m interested in. I think I’ll play it safe and go work in the private sector,’” Taylor added.
John Lacy with the Overland Park Police Department said their hiring has been impacted over the past few years.
“We used to get hundreds of applicants. Now we get tens and sometimes single digits.”
Others, like Gladstone Police Department Chief Fred Farris, believe the anti-police climate in the country is contributing to hiring shortages.
“Law enforcement has been demonized for the last couple of years, and finding applicants who are willing to still do this job or who have family members willing to support them, has proven to be a big obstacle,” Farris told KCTV5.
Parsons Police Department Chief Robert Spinks said his department’s extensive recruiting efforts have improved the situation, but he’s worried about private industries drawing some of his officers away. Spinks urged community officials to consider increasing officer pay to attract the most capable recruits and compete with neighboring departments.
“To get the cream of the crop … people you are going to entrust with the ability to take human life without prior judicial review, to be able to suspend people’s civil rights as we make arrests. You don’t want maybe the baker and the candlestick maker,” he said.
Officers in Kansas City are currently paid $40,000 as a starting salary compared to Des Moines, Iowa, where officers are started on $73,000.
Despite increased recruitment efforts, police warn of possible delays in response times.
“Where you’d expect an officer to be there in 10 or 15 minutes, sometimes you could be waiting a couple hours depending on what the priority is for your call,” Taylor said.