Research shows the number of people wanting to become police officers in our country is down. The majority of agencies are getting fewer applications. In fact, the number of police officers in general is down.
A former police officer who is now a Criminal Justice Professor said there are two reasons.
Dr. David Thomas said the first is the risk versus the reward. He said the average starting salary for a police officer is between $35,000-$40,000, but the job is dangerous. The FBI says 55 police officers were killed in the line of duty in 2018.
Dr. Thomas said comparing this with a warehouse job: the starting salary is $31,000 with essentially no danger.
Dr. Thomas said another reason is the profession has lost some of it's "glory" and respect. "We’ve lost some of the luster that went with this profession for years, because of the 10 percent that have kind of ruined it for everybody, and all the videos that you see. It’s demeaning to the profession, and it’s hurt the profession as well," Dr. Thomas said.
He said viral videos that capture officers misbehaving have given a false view of police as a whole. And he said if law enforcement agencies focus on Community Policing, this trend can be changed. "An agency is only as good as the relationship that it has with the community it serves," Dr. Thomas said.
He said the shift in how the public views the police started after 9/11. "Policing's mission changed, because terrorism became a part of local policing," he said.
He said this meant Community Policing — going door to door, talking to the people, and building relationships with the people you serve — went by the wayside. "Instead, we just go from call to call, and have no concept of the people we deal with on a daily basis. So I can't tell you who's the good people and the bad people," Dr. Thomas said.
As an example, he said he he did a training session with an agency seeing a spike in murders.
"They admitted — we have a gang problem. So while I'm doing the training, the Chief and I talked, and I said 'I'm going to ask you guys this question: How many of you could tell me the name of one of the gang members?' Not one out of 26. I go 'How many of you guys get out with your dope dealers and talk to them?' Not one out of 26," he said. "There wasn't a day that I went on the streets and I worked in a neighborhood and I didn't know who the drug dealers were. Who the prostitutes were. There wasn't a day I didn't know who was in my community, who belonged, and who was infiltrating that community in order to do something they shouldn't be doing. That's what good community policing should be."
That's what he said will bring the police and the people together.
"The reality is, that type of community policing is exactly the policing you need in order to get the information to address all of the problems."