In the past year, city police departments across the country have reported a dramatic drop in manpower, as cops retire, resign, or leave for the suburbs. The NYPD’s headcount fell to its lowest level in ten years. In Chicago, police retirements rose 15 percent. The San Francisco Police Department is short 400 officers; over 115 officers, including an entire unit dedicated to crowd control, have left the Portland PD; and nearly 200 have left the Minneapolis PD or are on leave, rendering the department unable to engage in proactive policing. A recent survey of police departments found that hiring fell an average of 5 percent in 2020, while resignations rose 18 percent and retirements a whopping 45 percent.
What’s behind this wave? Officers I spoke with who had left their old departments all offered the same explanation: since last year’s explosive protests, they no longer feel that they have the support of the public or of civilian officials. As one now-retired NYPD officer put it: “One day, the good guys became the bad guys and the bad guys became the good guys.”
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