Philadelphia police face a staffing crisis that’s projected to get even worse

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The Philadelphia Police The department is facing down a staffing crisis storm as hundreds of officers get ready to retire in the coming years amid the department already coping with a lean force.

“We’re definitely more concerned because within the next couple of years we have 800 officers signed up for the (DROP) program where they get up to four years to retire,” Vice President of the Philadelphia FOP Lodge Roosevelt Poplar told WPVI. “Based on numbers we’ve seen it’s going to be worse.”

The Philadelphia Police Department is currently operating at 20% below its targeted staffing level, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. The figure comes after the city recorded 119 officers who left the force via retirement, termination, or resignation in 2020, which skyrocketed to 364 in 2021, according to WPVI.

As of this year, 262 officers have left the force, putting the city on track to lose 500 officers by the end of this year, the local ABC outlet reported.

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Police officers walk past as National Guard members monitor activity surrounding Philadelphia City Hall on October 30, 2020, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Skyline in autumn behind the Schuylkill River Boardwalk at Sunset, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.

Police officers walk past as National Guard members monitor activity surrounding Philadelphia City Hall on October 30, 2020, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Skyline in autumn behind the Schuylkill River Boardwalk at Sunset, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.
(Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images | Photo by: Jumping Rocks/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

“The city has to fill these positions. We need to be on a major recruiting mission,” City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart said of the open positions. Recruiting levels have sat at about 100 officers so far this year, WPVI reported.

The force is now bracing for a new wave of personnel exits. Just over 800 employees have enrolled in the city’s Deferred Retirement Option Plan, a pension plan enhancement in which employees can enroll four years ahead of their official retirement date.

Out of the more than 800 employees enrolled in the program, 40% are uniformed officers and civilian staff, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. The number of officers who leave the force over the next four years is also likely to be higher, since not everyone in the department enrolls in DROP and the figure does not take into account the number of officers who will quit.

“We’re talking about at least 800 people over the next four years that have signed up for the DROP. These times are very scary. They’re very challenging. We have to come up with a solution to make this more attractive. The service calls, you’re not going to get a response time, to me, that’s adequate enough to really help and support people,” Poplar told WPVI while discussing his concerns for the public during the staffing issues.

Police and residents are pictured near the scene of the fatal fire in the Fairmount neighborhood on January 5, 2022, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Police and residents are pictured near the scene of the fatal fire in the Fairmount neighborhood on January 5, 2022, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
(Hannah Beier/Getty Images)

A spokesperson for the city told Fox News Digital on Monday that the police department is working to increase recruitment efforts “by utilizing increased funding to acquire technology that streamlines the hiring process, as well as developing and launching new marketing strategies.” The city also allocated $250,000 in its latest budget to increase recruitment efforts for city employees, including officers.

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“Mayor Kenney and the Administration recognize the incredible demands on police officers who are on the front lines and face adversity every day in service of protecting our residents. The past few years have presented major challenges with respect to recruitment of new police officers, which is an issue departments across the country are experiencing,” the city spokesperson said.

The staffing shortages in the City of Brotherly Love come as the city copes with a violent crime increase. Philadelphia recorded its bloodiest year on record in 2021, at 561 homicides. Shootings also increased last year by 4% compared to 2020 at 2,332 people shot.

There have been 350 homicides so far this year, which marks a 3% increase over the same time period in 2021, according to the city controller’s website.

Philadelphia is far from alone in dealing with police staffing issues – cities across the country have reported more of the same.

The Chicago Police Department reported the lowest number of employees in recent history at the end of March. The Seattle Police Department reached a 30-year staffing low this year. Washington, DC, rolled out $20,000 bonuses to new officers to boost staffing earlier this summer.

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“We see law enforcement officers leave our profession at a rate we’ve never seen before,” National Fraternal Order of Police President Patrick Yoes said at the Faith & Blue conference in Washington, DC, earlier this month. “Our profession is dependent on the best and brightest stepping up and taking this job. And because of the actions, and because of the turmoil that has happened in the last two years, we have a crisis right now in manpower.”

Demonstrators hold a sign reading

Demonstrators hold a sign reading “Defund police” during a protest over the death of a Black man, Daniel Prude, after police put a spit hood over his head during an arrest on March 23, in Rochester, New York, US September 6, 2020 .
(REUTERS/Brendan McDermid)

Some analysts have attributed the staffing shortages to recent anti-police rhetoric and the defund the police movement that swept the nation in 2020 following the killing of George Floyd.

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“Unfortunately, we find ourselves in a very difficult time in American history in the last two years. America’s law enforcement has been demonized by many. It has created a rift within this country and eroded the very trust of the institution and the profession of law enforcement,” Yoes added during his remarks earlier this month. “And we’re paying for it. We’re paying for it in our communities with higher crime. And we’re also paying for it in law enforcement officers.”

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