No, Police Officers Aren't Resigning in Droves

Compared to pandemic employment shifts in other fields, law enforcement numbers are fairly stable.


In an attempt to push back at the anger over violent police conduct and efforts to reform policing in America, we've been warned that all this outrage is damaging police morale, causing officers to quit and recruiting to plunge, possibly contributing to 2020's spike in homicides and gun violence.

A survey released in July by the nonprofit Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) found what they called a "widespread staffing crisis," declaring a dramatic 45 percent increase in retirements between 2019 and 2020 and an 18 percent increase in resignations.

This report when it was released drove a lot of fretful reporting that the "political climate"—demands for police defunding and restrictions on police behavior—was pushing cops out the door. The survey actually presents it as a more complex matter. Some of the quotes from the departments they've surveyed suggest that officers were retiring as soon as they could because they didn't want to deal with the policing conflicts, but other quotes indicated other reasons and one mentioned "pandemic fatigue." Some departments insisted that everything was fine, while others indicated that the problem was not with who they were losing, but with difficulty recruiting new officers.

A lot of people quit, retired, or lost their jobs during the pandemic. So this doesn't really tell us much about increases in police resignations and retirements compared to other fields; we don't have enough evidence to indicate that it's a morale issue connected to demands for policing reform.

Once we actually do put the losses in the context of all other industries, the reality becomes clear: We actually have not seen a massive decline in the number of police compared to drops in employment in other fields. Over at The Marshall Project, reporters looked at the actual numbers coming out of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In reality, police employment has been fairly stable, losing less than 1 percent—4,000 jobs—during 2020.

The losses actually followed several years of expanded police job growth, essentially returning it back to numbers from just a couple of years ago.

The Marshall Project also notes that the defunding of the police that we keep hearing about is not really happening. The Biden administration is allowing cities to use the $350 billion in COVID relief funding to hire more officers. Peter Moskos, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, told The Marshall Project that many of the officers who retired were likely to retire in the next couple of years anyway; police departments' generous pension programs discourage officers from just up and quitting, but it does explain why—as America has become a stressful place to be a cop in the last two years—police officers who have reached retirement age might not want to bother padding the payout instead of taking the money and heading for the door.

There are somewhere around 700,000 law enforcement officers in the United States at all levels. A loss of 4,000 officers in local departments is actually only a slight deviation from what is standard, but when you represent changes in small numbers as percentages, they sometimes seem like much bigger problems than they actually are.

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  1. That’s too bad. I wish all American cops would resign — except the Capitol Police, who deserve a much larger budget after quashing the HEAVILY ARMED INSURRECTION in January.


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  2. Talking about a localized problem in terms of national statistics may be misleading.

    “Daryl Turner, executive director of the Portland Police Association, says police funding has been slashed by more than $25 million since George Floyd’s murder, and some 150 officers have resigned or retired since June 2020. That includes 50 officers who served on a crowd-control unit.



    How are the numbers looking in Minneapolis?

    Throw in the numbers from Asheville, NC, Boise, ID, Flagstaff, AZ, and Omaha, NE, and the numbers may not look as bad on a national basis–but why would we be talking about a localized problem from a national perspective?

    1. I may have missed a close italics tag.

      I’m just sayin’.

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    2. Compared to pandemic employment shifts in other fields, law enforcement numbers are fairly stable.

      Police aren’t retiring in droves, they’re just leaving the workforce at the same rate as everyone else forced to stay home by executive decree.


    3. I would have to agree. Policing tends to be hyper local in the US, which increases the likelihood of national numbers to be misleading. For example, I have lived in the greater Phoenix valley area for the past 6 years. Based on my understanding, most of the department in the valley have had massive staffing problems the entire time I have been here. More a problem of recruitment than retirement (just read the other day that Mesa is giving new recruits a $3500 bonus as they want to hire hundreds of officers over the next 3 years).

      Another interesting perspective I heard the other day, but not sure its veracity is that one of the reasons why officers are retiring right now when they are close is because of pension spiking. Essentially, 2020 (with all the protests) saw massive over time hours which dramatically increased salary for that year. Given that some (many?) pensions calculate benefits based on last year salary, these officers are deciding that they likely will never see their salaries this high in the next couple of years, so why not just retire now. Like I said, don’t know if that is true or not, but it is interesting.

    4. And Seattle. Plus lots of officers quitting libtard cities going elsewhere offsetting declines.

  3. eleventy million troops coming home from Afghanistan is fresh crop for the police academies. Michael Winslow hardest hit.

    1. Soldiers don’t generally last as cops. They tend to consider themselves to be public servants with morals, ethics and a duty to those they serve. People like that will report police abuse, restrain themselves, deescalate situations, and otherwise do what good cops do. That means they get forced out or fired, because the last thing any police department wants is a good cop.

      1. Nice fantasy screetch.

        1. While Sarcasmic is being overly pessimistic, soldiers and police don’t require even close to the same skillset. While there are aspects that are similar, especially in high stakes dramatic policework and the mountains of bureaucracy that each career has to deal with, their goals and day-to-day lives are extremely different.

  4. This is such a bullshit, dishonest take that it’s laughable.

    First, to compare this to losses in other industries due to COVID is to lie about the cause of the losses in this sector. Yes, small businesses, retail and service jobs have been hit hard by government lockdowns but that has nothing to do with the police force losses.

    Second, to compare the large localized losses in places that capitulated to BLM and antifa against nationwide LE at all levels is an attempt to hide the cause of the problem.

    Fuck you Shackford. You, BLM, Antifa and Democrats (but I repeat myself) are actively making cities more unsafe. You may not be able to comprehend it but there is a difference between police reform and “fuck the police”.

  5. This rag has sided with those who are against law enforcement, so ignoring crime trends and pretending all is well doesn’t work anymore.

  6. Once we actually do put the losses in the context of all other industries, the reality becomes clear: We actually have not seen a massive decline in the number of police compared to drops in employment in other fields.

    I’m not sure this is an important datapoint– or even meaningful.

    1. It’s meaningful if your purpose is to obfuscate the source of the decline.

  7. Now do a more localized analysis of communities where #Defund is actually significant.

    My guess is your nation-level statistic is burying significant things.

  8. I have to agree with the above commenters. National trends are useless. Look at local trends. From observation, Michigan and Oregon hemorrhaged cops. They couldn’t hire anyone because of the protests and being thrown under the bus by officials. However, places like Texas went on a hiring spree because people were concerned about public safety.

    Similarly, you can’t compare police to other sectors because the pandemic shouldn’t affect an industry with no customers. You need to compare apples to apples. Now, if firefighters had a similar employment trend, that would be something to mention.

    1. Seattle hemorrhaged cops, Portland hemorrhaged cops.

      And we’re going to attribute this to the general malaise of COVID?

      Exit interviews with departing officers revealed that some retired early, while others left for policing jobs in different cities or private sector jobs.

      Activists have applauded the reductions and called for additional city police department cuts following nationwide protests over police brutality and excessive use of force targeting people of color.

      “Despite an increased focus on recruitment and retention, the Seattle Police Department continues to lose sworn officers at a record pace due to ongoing budget uncertainty,” the office of Mayor Jenny Durkan said in a statement. “Based on exit interviews, we know the Council’s threats of continued layoffs or cuts are having a direct impact on decisions to leave the department.”

  9. Here’s a good breakdown of why Scott’s take is way off base.

    This is a comparison of “job losses” in the private sector vs the public sector, primarily focusing on public education.

    For a quick take, scroll down to the graph (Figure 1) and you see # of “layoffs” in the private sector skyrocketed during the pandemic, but actually dropped in the public sector (education) during the same period– even while everyone screeched about public sector “job losses”.

    Comparing cops on a national scale to private sector employees who were literally forced out of their jobs by the diktat of a governor or mayor doesn’t begin to compare.

    Especially when there are (as noted above) entirely localized reasons for cops quitting or retiring early that may be far different in a place like Seattle (where the progressive city council LITERALLY ran the black Sheriff out of town) and Salt Pork W Va that didn’t experience any mostly peaceful protests and calls to defund the police.

    1. Yep. First thing I thought of when I got to the “industries” language.

      1. Hey, the public sector lost jobs just like the private sector did!

        No, the private sector lost jobs. The public sector had a “slowdown in hiring” which the pubsec unions spun as “lost jobs”. While I won’t speak for any national trend in policing, I can speak for specific localities which have actually lost police officers due to localized policies.

  10. “No, Police Officers Aren’t Resigning in Droves”
    Some idiots getting a bit desperate so you have to resort to bullshit huh Scotty-Boy?

  11. Police are not resigning in droves. The AP reports that January 6th Insurrectionist are not in fact being treated worse that the summer 2020 BLM protesters, and Trump super supporter Ron Johnson told an interviewer that Wisconsin data is not skewed and that Trump lost because Republican did not vote for him.

    Bad week for the far right, better luck next week.

    1. Trump also consciously abandoned hundreds of Americans in Afghanistan while drone striking some innocent children there.
      Wait. That was somebody else.

      1. Yes, but for America the Afghanistan conflict is over. So the glass is half full.

        1. His shakes knocked the glass off the counter and it shattered on the floor.
          Like losing a house to foreclosure, leaving a family member there and driving over the neighbor’s kid on the way out of town.

  12. Some resignations are probably pretty helpful anyway. If your idea of being a cop is to have unbridled power and no one to answer to, we don’t want you policing anyhow.

    More funding for better training and more oversight would be a welcome addition to policing.

    1. Good comment. Are the officer resigning good officers or the bad ones that can’t handle oversite?

  13. Cops in black cities should resign. Leave blacks to their own devices. We’re tired of their whining.

  14. Why do you compare losses in police employment (a government job with benefits) with those in the private sector. Obviously job losses in the service sector will be more dramatic, and the pandemic and enhanced benefits resulted in widespread job losses.

    There are 700,000 law enforcement officers in a nation of over 300 million people, with big cities perpetually mired in violent crime. And highway patrol and school resource officers aren’t involved in riot or gang prevention.

    In the ideal condition, cops would have trouble clamping down on a violent protest with only a couple thousand people. Meaning if states like CA lost “only” 100 officers with field experience and incoming recruits start to dwindle, crime will likely surge. It doesn’t matter if employment is stable in states like Utah or South Dakota, those are sane parts of the country.

    There are infinitely more people who suffer from drug abuse and died at the hands of drug cartels than those who were killed by the “drug warriors”. Less than 1% of people in prison were there for simply using pot. Is the drug wars not a crisis? What constitutes a crisis?

    Are Reason writers proving lefty talking points about being white people being clueless and out of touch? There were 2,3 accidents in my neighborhood because people kept parking at red zones, obstructing view of the traffic. Someone took off the catalytic converter on my car earlier this year, and I HEARD someone sawing it off at night. Retail theft is soaring, I’m “greeted” by someone posted at the entrance of places like Home Goods now, without fail.

    What “evidence” are you looking for? What do you need to see? You buy that line that pandemic fatigue is causing crimes? Then why aren’t crimes rising dramatically across immigrants, who are most affected by covid and shutdowns?

    1. The “1% people are in prison for using pot” data point is always a cringer for me. There’s a whole spectrum of suck to the Drug War from a libertarian standpoint that goes far beyond the potential for potheads to go to prison.

      That said, I think a major reason for the uptick in violence that’s being ignored *is* probably, sad to say, drug decriminalization.

      If you have a city full murder gangs and then suddenly decriminalize use and/or simultaneously pull cops off general law enforcement, suddenly the gangs need to sort out who’s in charge of the bonanza.

      I’m totally against the drug war, but it’s definitely seeming like half measures such as decriminalization (or de facto decriminalization) are gonna be a recipe for carnage in a lot of American cities. We’re gonna need to get some legal framework for the drug market up and running because I’m not sure the “it works great in Portugal!” Argument will pan out here.

  15. Police are retiring in drones.

  16. Seems to me this is Total Police and not specific cities. So for example Portland where police have had to deal with riots for two years or Seattle. Am I really to believe that thete is no reduction in force? With cities announcing less spend on policing? Ya, I do not by it and will have to look at other sources.

  17. In the same sense, there are no droughts, really. Sure, some places don’t have any water, but others have too much, so it even out.

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