In rural southwest Virginia, the number of police officers quitting their jobs is turning heads.
“In total, Roanoke County saw 28 of its police officers leave during 2020, about one-fifth of its department,” The Roanoke Times reported. “That is both abnormal and normal all at once — abnormal because it’s twice as high as the turnover the agency would expect in a typical year. Normal because it tracks with a surge in police departures unfolding nationwide.”
After several volatile years culminating in a summer of massive riots around the country in 2020 after the death of George Floyd, many police in urban areas are simply walking off the job.
In Minneapolis, where George Floyd died at the hands of Derek Chauvin, the ex-Minneapolis police officer who has been convicted of murder, the city began 2021 with 200 fewer officers on the force than it did in 2020. More than 150 officers there were on “extended leave” and several more took early retirement.
The Seattle Police declared a “staffing crisis” earlier this year. In Louisville, Kentucky, the depleted police force lost 20 percent of its officers.
All three of those cities saw mass rioting and lawlessness last summer.
But Roanoke is not a major metropolitan area like Minneapolis, Seattle, or Louisville.
As it turns out, the trend of police officers quitting is not limited just to where the major riots have occurred.
“A new survey of nearly 200 police departments nationwide found attrition among officers had jumped over the past year,” according to The Roanoke Times. “Resignations were up by 18% over the prior year and retirements had climbed by 45% among agencies polled, according to the Police Executive Research Forum, a Washington, D.C.-based policy institute. The survey pool was too small to create a statistically representative snapshot of all police departments but offers a glimpse into what many are reporting.”
Roanoke County Police Chief Howard Hall pointed at hostility toward police officers in the national media.
“It’s that bigger picture,” Hall reportedly said. “You know if you turn on the national news, there is a lot of negativity out there about law enforcement and directed toward law enforcement. We believe that’s having an impact on people’s interest in our line of work. I mean, it can’t help but.”
“This is going on everywhere,” he said. “It’s going to take a long time to catch up in terms of where we are from a vacancies perspective.”
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