But right now, some police unions are sounding the alarm over a nationwide officer shortage.
In New York City alone, new data is revealing that 1,596 officers have either resigned or retired so far this year. That’s up nearly 40% from this time last year, the largest mass departure on New York Police Department record.
A 2021 survey from the Police Executive Research Forum showed a 45% increase in retirements and a nearly 20% spike in resignations over the previous year.
The NYPD is pushing back on those numbers from the police union, saying that departures are only slightly higher than the previous year.
To help discuss why this wave of resignations is happening, retired NYPD detective Michael Alcazar joined “Morning in America” on Monday.
“This is not the time to lose police officers. Historically, summer months are always the highest in crime, highs in shootings and highs in homicides. We’re on track to hit that also, and we have been losing a lot of police officers,” Alcazar said.
He described having trouble with recruitment, saying he has students he teaches who are normally excited to get on the police department. But this past April, Alcazar only had three students who were supposed to go into the police academy, and they actually turned the offer down.
“They’re apprehensive,” Alcazar said, “They’re not sure if it’s something they want to do anymore.”
Alcazar said the students are scared and ask him for advice, but he won’t give them advice because it’s a life decision they have to make for themselves. He said he doesn’t recommend they get into policing if they aren’t ready for it.
Historically, police officers stay in the job for decades until they can retire, but recent data shows more members of law enforcement retiring earlier.
“It’s something I’ve actually never experienced, or have heard of where police officers are actually quitting in the police academy, quitting before they hit their 20 years,” Alcazar said. “And then when you have the senior people that are eligible for retirement, meaning they’ve done their 20 years … when they’re eligible to retire, they retire.”
Alcazar explained that he stayed on the force for 30 years because he enjoyed the job. But these days, he said, senior officers don’t want to play pension roulette: They’re not sure if they’re going to get the backing from the department.
“The city council pretty much makes everything for the criminal. They don’t support the police officers. Police officers don’t know if qualified immunity is on the table,” Alcazar said, “Do they have the protections? If they do their work properly, legally? Are they going to be indemnified by the police department? And that’s something they’re asking themselves. So, if they’re not sure, they’re leaving. They’re retiring, and we’re losing a lot of senior police officers that are valuable in training new young police officers.”
The same thing is happening across the nation in cities like Chicago and Oakland, California. Police recruitment is at an all-time low. The departments don’t feel supported by the council members in the local community.
“In Philadelphia, they’re going through the same thing,” Alcazar said. “And I heard that they’re thinking about bringing back retired police officers, meaning the retired police officers can collect their pension and go back to work to earn a salary. That sounds like desperation to me.”
Alcazar suggested that the NYPD could look at doing something like that if it is looking for solutions to their police officer shortage. However, he doesn’t know of any police officers who would be willing to come back from retirement.
“Police officers in New York are underpaid. They’re underpaid and they’re overworked because of this shortage of police officers, meaning now they have to answer more radio runs, more 911 calls. For the average police officer in NYPD used to handling maybe eight to 10 jobs during their to work, I heard they’re having like 30 to 40 jobs, and it’s a very stressful job to begin with. And it’s daunting. It’s bad on their mental and physical welfare.”
Alcazar believes that it’s become “just a job” to a lot of officers, and it isn’t worth it to them or their families.
There were seven NYPD officers shot in the first weeks of 2022, including the two officers — Jason Rivera and Wilbert Mora — who died from their injuries after being shot while responding to a domestic incident in Harlem.
It’s not safe for police to do their jobs, and Alcazar said officers don’t want to do it anymore.
There’s been a 40% increase in robberies in the city of New York and a nearly 15% increase in rapes. According to the NYPD crime statistics, police are busier than ever, and they need more officers on the force to keep up with the demand.