In 2010 about 4,700 people applied to work as a police officer in Nashville.
Seven years later the number of people who wanted to work as a cop in Music City dwindled to just 1,900 people.
This, according to the website Oregon Live, which did a story about more and more people around the nation avoiding careers in law enforcement altogether.
The findings don’t surprise Nashville Fraternal Order of Police President James Smallwood.
Smallwood told The Tennessee Star Friday this is part of a nationwide trend — not just in Nashville.
“Some people look at the law enforcement profession, and they ask themselves is it really worth the amount of money that these employers are really willing to pay and to put everything I have at risk and put my family at risk? Even if I have done my job correctly, they said, I am still at risk of being scrutinized or arrested or something to that extent,” Smallwood said.
“They may decide the pay and benefits are no longer commensurate with that risk, and they find something else to do. Some of them are finding smaller departments or other departments that have benefits or pay that are better or a city administration that supports their officers better and they are going there.”
In a referendum last month, Nashville voters approved a civilian oversight board over police. Smallwood and others worry this coming board will exclude the perspectives of law enforcement officers.
The number of people who apply to work as cops in Nashville, Smallwood predicted, will only continue to dip.
“You will see some of our people that would have been good decent qualified applicants for Nashville look to other cities, especially given the fact that this draft was so poorly done and there is so much ambiguity and it leaves a lot to interpretation,” Smallwood said.
The trend toward fewer police officers per capita has been steady for 20 years, according to Oregon Live, citing findings from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
“While the U.S. population has risen from 267 million in 1997 to 323 million in 2016, the number of full-time sworn officers per 1,000 U.S. residents has dropped from 2.42 in 1997 to 2.17 officers per 1,000 residents in 2016,” according to Oregon Live.
Nashville residents ought to start caring about this issue, if they don’t already, Smallwood said.
“If we don’t have people who are willing or qualified to come to Nashville (law enforcement jobs) it compromises the future of public safety in Nashville. It will lead to longer call waiting times and longer response times. Higher crime is always a potential if we don’t have enough officers on the street,” Smallwood said, adding this problem affects the city’s economy too.
“Nashville’s economy is widely based in tourism. Public safety is a key strategy in bringing tourists to our city because they want to feel safe when they are doing things here. If safety becomes compromised then people are going to see that. It will become widely known, and we will have to worry about how it affects our economy. People may choose not to come here to recreate.”
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