Staffing shortages cause for concern among law enforcement agencies nationwide

Norman, Oklahoma — Stunning bodycam video captured the moment officers with the New York City Police Department on Thursday helped rescue a man who had fallen onto the subway tracks.

The officers — who were on the opposite platform — had to race across a busy city street to reach the man. A Good Samaritan was already trying to help, and together, they lifted him out of harm’s way, seconds before a train rolled into the station.

That is just one of the many life-threatening tasks police officers perform every day. However, law enforcement agencies nationwide are facing staffing shortages, with retirement rates up and new recruits in short supply.

The number of new officer hirings was down 3.9% in 2021 compared to 2019, according to a national survey earlier this year from the Police Executive Research Forum.

The survey found that there were 23.6% more retirements among law enforcement in 2021 compared to 2019. There were also 42.7% more resignations among law enforcement in 2021 compared to 2019 as well. The uptick in retirements and resignations were driven in party by low pay, the survey determined.

At Oklahoma’s Tulsa Police Department, new recruit Cheyenne Walden won’t be part of a full graduating class of recruits.

“You know, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” Walden told CBS News. “So it’s not a job, more of a career.”

Tulsa Police Chief Wendell Franklin said he is struggling to fill about 150 positions.

“There is, there was, a lot of scrutiny placed upon law enforcement,” Franklin said. “And I think that soured a lot of interested people that wanted to go into the profession. They have made a detour, and they’ve gone and done something else.”

Smaller law enforcement agencies are sounding the alarm as well. Sgt. Shane Roddy with the University of Oklahoma Police Department (OUPD) told CBS News there are roughly 17 uniformed officers on staff. He said he has not physically trained in an active shooter drill in years.

“The University of Oklahoma is just going to have to start funding OUPD so that we can build our staffing levels to the point that we can actually start training again,” Roddy said.

In a statement to CBS News, the university said it recently raised its police department salaries “on average nearly 8%.” The school noted, however, that the pay raise is coming from open positions which have not been filled. The university, though, also said it has hired three new officers, and that it “will continue to hire more officers in the coming months.”

Furthermore, Saturdays brings college football to Norman — and even with other departments helping with game day security — with more than 100,000 fans on the University of Oklahoma campus, officers worry about the nightmare scenario.

“There’s always going to be the threat of an active shooter or armed subjects coming on campus and causing death or great bodily harm,” Roddy said.

When asked if his department is “adequately staffed,” Roddy responded, “absolutely not.”

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