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    The staffing crisis in law enforcement
    • July 9, 2023


    The lengthy investigation on the staffing crisis in Southern California law enforcement by Joe Nelson and Scott Schwebke published this spring showed that, with very few exceptions, area police and sheriff’s departments are having a very hard time indeed both holding on to qualified officers and deputies and replacing the ones who leave.

    As anyone who reads the series knows, it would be wrong to chalk the problem up to any one reason. The problem runs deep, and the complicated issues that led up to it will require complex solutions.

    At a very surface level, it might seem like a great time to go into law enforcement. The need is great; pay has never been better — in the past, a cop was never going to see anything like a six-figure salary; the benefits are out of this world; relatively early retirement is available like almost no other occupation in the nation. All of that is easy for those of us who don’t don the uniform daily to say.

    There is still an incredible hangover for law enforcement from the effects of the “defund the police” movement that arose — in some ways understandably, though the nomenclature stinks — in the wake of the murder by Minneapolis officers of George Floyd.

    A tiny group of Midwest officers committed that crime; during the protests that followed it, you would think that every officer in America, the vast majority of whom serve honorably, was behind it. Who needs that kind of hatred in their work day?

    Plus, in California, the cost of living is so high that other states are actively recruiting our officers. Stresses of serving during COVID-19 led to a lot of early retirements. Our sheriff’s departments offer such high-quality training that many deputies move on to other police agencies after a few years of service.

    So, the problem is not simple. And this dual suggestion alone won’t solve it. But it would help. How about we the people agree to understand that each cop is an individual, most just trying to do a job, which keeps us safe? Treat them with respect. And how about all officers and deputies take seriously their training in de-escalation of tense situations as job one while on duty? Let’s work on creating a climate in which the people and police live well together; a better job climate for law enforcement will soon follow.

    ​ Orange County Register