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Police Forces Finally See a Post-Floyd Rebound

Hiring increases reported for first time since 2020.

By:  |  May 22, 2024  |    679 Words
GettyImages-2152138622 police

(Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

A recent survey shows police departments hired more new officers in 2023 than in the previous four years. This news is particularly encouraging for major cities suffering upheaval and increased crime. Americans are concerned about upholding law and order, an issue that will doubtlessly feature prominently in the 2024 elections. However, the ongoing decriminalization ideology embraced by many prosecutors may undermine these positive gains: Many crimes charged by the police simply aren’t being prosecuted.

The study by the Police Executive Research Forum reflected increased hiring for 2023, but also a drop in police officer retirements and resignations. This is encouraging news for law and order following an exodus of experienced officers after the controversial death of George Floyd in 2020 and the ensuing BLM fad. Bold attacks on police, initiatives to defund departments, and reduced personnel from resignations and lower applications created a vicious cycle of demoralization that has not fully abated – some inner-city departments still struggle with recruitment despite six-figure starting salaries.

Police Killings

It is understandable that police officers would resign or retire, and that new recruits may hesitate to serve on the streets. The hateful attacks against US police officers extend beyond mere shaming or political criticism – murders of police officers rose nearly 60% in 2021, a number that included numerous targeted assassinations. A total of 346 officers were shot in 271 separate incidents, according to the Fraternal Order of Police, and  103 of those shootings were “ambush-style attacks.” The number dipped slightly in 2022 to 331, but then rose again to 378 in 2023. Surely such statistics motivate police officers and their loved ones to consider alternative professions.

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(Photo by Kyle Mazza/Anadolu via Getty Images)

A recent poll by the Pew Research Center suggests the issue of law enforcement may feature highly in 2024 election races, as 58% of US adults say, “reducing crime should be a top priority for the president and Congress to address this year,” up from 47% at the beginning of the Biden presidency in 2021. Overall crime rates are allegedly down for violent offenses but have increased substantially for property crimes. Additionally, high-profile disruptions in America’s largest cities have fueled public perceptions, including brazen assaults by illegal immigrants against both citizens and police, and controversial episodes of squatting, shoplifting, and carjacking.

Prosecutorial Support for Law Enforcement

Voter concerns may shift public sentiment toward police support – many cities that embraced Defund the Police policies are now scrambling to restore public safety. But supporting the police also means supporting prosecutions of those the police arrest and charge, a growing problem across the country as left-wing prosecutors who more resemble defense attorneys decline to press charges for drug dealing and many theft crimes, eliminate cash bond, decline to charge juveniles as adults, and advocate minimal or suspended sentences for many dangerous offenders.

Such lax support of America’s police does not bode well for future hires, public safety, or the political fortunes of liberal Democrats. Following the spike in murders of police in 2021, FBI Director Christopher Wray ominously hinted at this problem:

“We’re seeing more and more juveniles committing violent crime, and that’s certainly an issue. We’re seeing a certain amount of interstate gun trafficking. That’s part of it. And we’re seeing an alarming frequency of some of the worst of the worst getting back out on the streets.”

Prosecutors in many roiling inner cities refuse to pursue sentencing enhancements for repeat offenses, aggravated circumstances, or gang affiliation. This ensures more violent, mentally ill, or criminally organized defendants will “slip through the cracks” of lax prosecutorial worldviews, released to commit more crimes, including targeted murders of on-duty police officers.

The Path to Law and Order

The rise in police hiring is a hopeful indication that Americans and their families will be better protected in the future. But lax prosecution will continue to put both police and the citizenry at greater risk of violent crime and diminish police morale and future hiring. Police officers working without prosecutorial backup are hog-tied from accomplishing the fundamental purpose of their profession, no matter how many new cops are hired.

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