NYT: U.S. police shortage, Ohio officers allowed to wear beards
Police departments in some U.S. states are offering new hires bonuses, free flights to the entrance exam site and relaxed appearance requirements – for example, allowing them to wear beards
Police departments in the United States are trying to attract recruits in ways comparable to what “a soccer coach might use to get a valuable quarterback” (an offensive player position in American and Canadian soccer), The New York Times writes. This comes amid layoffs of police officers and a decline in new applications to join the force.
In Louisville, Kentucky, for example, out-of-state residents are being flown in to take the admissions test, put up in a hotel for the time, and accompanied by a police officer on the trip. In several states on the west coast of the United States, management offers tens of thousands of dollars in bonuses for transferring police officers from other divisions.
In Fairfax County, Virginia, future officers have a “signing day” ceremony (the publication does not specify what it consists of), when they formally accept a job offer. They also relaxed the requirements for the appearance of employees – in terms of hair and tattoos. Maryland uses targeted advertising to advertise job openings.
In Akron, Ohio, where there were protests over the summer over the death of 25-year-old African-American Jayland Walker (police say he was shot and killed while trying to flee after a traffic violation), dozens of officer vacancies are open. According to Police Chief Steven Mylett, he has been able to attract new recruits, but the overall number of recruits remains too low. To remedy this, he lifted a long-standing ban on officers wearing beards.
Florida Republican Governor Ron Desantis signed a $5,000 executive order for police recruits. In Minneapolis, Minnesota, the City Council recently approved $7,000 payments for police officers who changed their minds about retiring.
The NYT notes that the layoffs began after the riots in 2020 caused by the death of African-American George Floyd in an arrest. Also, amid the coronavirus pandemic, the number of people wanting to become police officers has plummeted. According to polls cited by the newspaper, layoffs in 2021 were 43 percent higher than in 2019, and the percentage of officers who retired rose by 24 percent. The trend has partly continued this year as well.