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‘Defund the Police’ Led to Lower Standards

The Democrats control 14 of America's 15 largest cities and, during the pandemic, consistently threw the police under the bus. They should have supported the police with additional funds in return for changing the mindset of the police unions that generally stand in the way of removing bad cops.

These administrations use law enforcement to raise money off the backs of the poor by hitting folks with a legion of stupid traffic tickets and other violations that cause them to incur debt, and loose their ability to drive and get to work. The police get blamed for hassling people when the idiots that run these cities deserve the blame.

‘Defund the Police’ Led to Lower Standards

Recruitment difficulties have reduced the quality of officers, increasing the risk of abusive conduct.

By Jason Johnson, WSJ

Feb. 22, 2023 4:51 pm ET

The death of Tyre Nichols in Memphis, Tenn., exposed a crisis of professionalism in policing. Faced with record levels of retirements and resignations, police agencies are putting recruit quantity over quality with disastrous results. Desperate departments that hire risky recruits invite bad policing.

Two decades ago the New York City Police Department attracted 20 applicants for every open position. But an exodus of officers that began in 2020 has today left the NYPD short 1,700 officers. In San Jose, Calif., applications to the force have fallen by two-thirds from three years ago. Chicago is losing two officers for each one it graduates from the police academy.

The post-George Floyd rise in antipolice sentiment and policies are dissuading young people from pursuing law-enforcement careers and driving experienced cops out of the job. Data compiled by the Police Executive Research Forum show that resignations increased 42.7% from 2019 to 2021 and retirements increased 23.6%. According to a 2022 survey of law enforcement officers in eight states, 51% of cops have considered quitting because of antipolice attitudes while 59% personally knew a colleague who left because of public hostility.

To fill vacancies, most large police agencies have lowered their standards. In 2020 Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown announced that certain applicants would no longer be required to obtain 60 college credits. The department received 400 applications the day of the announcement. Philadelphia dropped its residency and age requirements in 2017 and applications jumped 20%. But it didn’t work for long, as poor recruitment and high attrition have since returned to those departments.

The longer the staffing crisis goes on, the worse community-police tensions will become as faith in the competence and trustworthiness of law enforcement erodes. A four-year college degree may not be necessary to perform the duties of a police officer, but applicants with sketchy employment and education résumés are unlikely to possess the communication skills and self-control necessary to do well as cops. A history of drug and alcohol abuse or criminal activity has been shown to increase the risk that an officer will use excessive force or engage in serious misconduct on the job. Officers who are in poor physical shape can’t credibly protect the public from crime.

Demetrius Haley, one of the five officers involved in Nichols’s death, joined the Memphis Police Department in 2020 after the agency loosened its education requirements. Mr. Haley had previously worked as a Shelby County corrections officer and was sued in 2016 for allegedly beating a jail inmate. That case was dismissed on a technicality, but Mr. Haley was reprimanded by the Memphis Police Department after only six months on the job for not filing a report after using force during an arrest. Months later, he crashed a cruiser while responding to a police call. Three of the four other officers had also earned official reprimands during their short careers.

Memphis has been hiring questionable candidates since 2017-18, when it applied for six waivers to a Tennessee law preventing police departments from hiring recruits with criminal or drug histories. But the city lowered the bar further last year in a bid to get more recruits in the door. The college education and fitness requirements were watered down significantly.

Memphis isn’t alone. Other departments have relaxed standards. The Police Executive Research Forum has found that a majority of departments are accepting recruits who admit to having used illegal drugs. Visible tattoos were once a no-no, but a third of departments now allow them. And many departments are granting exemptions to rules against hiring applicants with criminal convictions.

The deprofessionalization of policing is a danger to public safety. Waiving or eliminating standards exacerbates the staffing problem by demoralizing veteran officers and turning off high-quality candidates. Excellence attracts excellence. Police officers who can’t handle the physical and ethical rigors of the job risk achieving through their actions what the “defund the police” movement never could by debasing the profession in the eyes of the American people.

Mr. Johnson was Baltimore’s deputy police commissioner, 2016-18, and is president of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund.

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