(WEHT) — Police departments all across the country are dealing with a shortage of officers.
Experts say there could be two reasons why – many cities are facing budget cuts on top of some groups calling for departments to be de-funded, and the other is morale is down because of the protests across the country.
Eyewitness News spoke to Dr. Alex Del Carmen about what can be done to help bring in more recruits.
He helps train new recruits in Fort Worth, Texas.
Brandon: Dr. Del Carmen, thanks for joining us tonight. The National Police foundation reports that 86% of police departments across the country have a shortage of police officers right now. What do you think that is?
Dr. Del Carmen: You know, if you look back at the past four or five years, law enforcement has received such negative ratings throughout social media, and throughout the public that I’m actually not surprised that has had an effect on the not only on the number of officers that are coming in to police, but also those that are going to stay?
Brandon: Has this been an ongoing issue for several years? Or is it because of recent events involving police officers across the country?
Dr. Del Carmen: Well, you know, it’s not a recent issue, per se, right? We’ve always sort of fluctuated and the number of police officers that come into work for a police department. But we saw a rise on these cases since the Ferguson component. In fact, some of us actually call it the Ferguson effect, as it relates to how the city of Ferguson and all the happenings in that city had a negative impact on law enforcement.
Brandon: Well, police departments are having a hard time finding new recruits right now. But they’re also having a hard time keeping the officers that they have on the force. Why is that?
Dr. Del Carmen: You know, many police officers feel you know, that that the pay is not good. The hours are not flexible. The pressures of the job are immense. And now on top of that, they’re facing this backlash from the media, or through the media, the public and whatnot. So I think the question is, why should anyone seek a job or stay in law enforcement today, when all of these things seem to surround the profession, which is really unfortunate for the rest of us?
Brandon: So if there’s a shortage of officers, what does that mean for police protection in some communities?
Dr. Del Carmen: You know, it’s going to suffer, right? So if we don’t really step up right now, I think in a year or two, we are going to see serious negative effects throughout the country as it relates to the protection and and the peacemaking component that law enforcement bring to the community so large and so I think we better step up to the plate and do something quickly and certainly be funding a law enforcement agency is not the solution.
Brandon: Well, in your opinion, why can police departments do to get new recruits and what can be done to turn this trend around?
Dr. Del Carmen: You know, some agencies here in Texas, we see them seeking out with bonuses, signup, bonuses, scholarships, sometimes for school or college. I think those things work, but at the end of the day, it’s about a vocation. It’s not a career. It’s about having somebody that’s willing to do something for everybody else except themselves and putting their lives on the line for the rest of us. And so it takes it requires a very special person. So law enforcement, I think they have to appeal to that idealism that many of the young millennials have to try to do something greater than themselves.
Brandon: Well you work with and train police officers. What is life like today for an officer out there on the street?
Dr. Del Carmen: it’s incredibly tough. You know, we see throughout the nation that we hear reports and read reports when they talk about how some police officers failed to engage. Some of them are turning away from criminal incidents, because they’re just afraid that someone is going to feel met judge it and and act accordingly. And then others, you know, don’t seem to be as effective as as as long but at the end of the day is having a really, really negative effect around the United States in all walks law enforcement, whether it’s state, local or federal, we are seeing that negative effect and we’ve got to do something about it.
Brandon: And finally, what would you say to someone out there who is considering a job in law enforcement right now?
Dr. Del Carmen: I would say that this is a great time, from a historical perspective, to join law enforcement to ensure that they’re joining law enforcement for the right reasons, and that they have the right frame of mind, because they’re going to be dealing with very tough circumstances in
the next 20 years.
Brandon: All right, Dr. Del Carmen, thanks for joining us tonight.
Dr. Del Carmen: Thanks for having me.