There was already a shortage of police around the U.S. before the Antifa riots and Black Lives Matters' call to defund police, and the need for good cops has only grown in recent months.
Now comes the ambush shooting of two sheriff's deputies in Los Angeles.
Unlike most major cities, Houston approved funding for five new cadet classes this next fiscal year. Overall numbers are down across the board, with many saying the risk is no longer worth their public sector salary.
“Recent events have made it harder for police departments to recruit officers. Due in part to the COVID pandemic. And due in part to tough times across the country that people are seeing on the TV every day,” says Dean Esserman, former New Haven (CT) police chief and senior counsel for the National Police Foundation.
Back in July, Houston's police union said upwards of 1,600 cops were eligible for early retirement. No word on how many have left the department.
“It's a challenge bringing police officers into the department and keeping them because they have options. So it's hard to get them in the door and it's hard to keep them,” says Esserman.
“The city invests a good deal of money in the recruitment process and the training process in the early years in the officers' career. The good economy made it hard, and these tough times has made it harder.”
He says there's no magic solution, just hard work and compromise on both sides of the debate.
“There are 18,000 separate departments, big and small, across the country that have relationships with their towns and their cities,” says Esserman. “It's to build on that relationship to know each other better. To understand each other's job better. To listen to each other. And over time the relationships will mend, I believe.”