Police departments cite budget cuts as the reason for weak recruitment

Kaylee Greenlee, DCNF

  • Police departments are struggling with budget cuts over recruitment after the in-custody death of George Floyd sparked nationwide civil unrest and ignited a movement to defund the police.
  • Some departments implemented hiring freezes because of budget cuts while local lawmakers completely overhauled other precincts’ budgets, making it impossible to hire new officers.
  • “This current fiscal year saw a decrease in hiring for police officer candidates, however the decrease was due to budget reductions, not lack of candidate interest,” a LAPD spokesperson said. 

Multiple police departments told the Daily Caller News Foundation that recruiting officers is not an issue, but budget constraints have limited their ability to increase manpower.

Almost a year after George Floyd died during an arrest where former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes resulting in nationwide civil unrest and the defund the police movement, most police departments say they still have a sufficient number of candidates but lack the funding to recruit them.

“The Minneapolis Police Department, like every department, has seen a drop in application numbers over the last several years,” Minneapolis Police Department Spokesperson John Elder told the DCNF. “Whereas we have seen a reduction in applications, we still have ample qualified candidates who wish to be Minneapolis Police Officers and Cadets [and the department’s] recruitment efforts are ongoing.”

The Minneapolis Police Academy managed to get every recruit to graduation despite civil unrest and demands to cut their department’s funding in June 2020, the DCNF reported. Elder told the DCNF at the time that there were fewer applications to become an officer, but those who were recruited all completed their training.

The San Francisco Police Department has seen a decrease in the number of applicants in the last five years, spokesperson Michael Andraychak told the DCNF. The department received around 4,800 applications from 2015 to 2016 and roughly 2,600 from 2019 to 2020, down approximately 375 from the previous year.

“While we did see a slight increase in the number of applicants at the onset of the pandemic (we feel this was attributed to a drastic decline in job opportunities), the estimated number of total applicants has declined over the last few years,” Andraychak told the DCNF. “This could be due to a strong local economy (pre-Covid), shifting national perceptions of policing or other factors.”

Police departments in both Washington, D.C., and Austin, Texas, are on a hiring freeze because of budget limitations despite interest in the academies, various spokespeople told the DCNF. The Austin City Council cut the department’s budget by $150 million in August after officers were criticized for killing two unarmed men, using excessive force against protesters and for their investigation of a shooting where a citizen fatally shot a protester, The Texas Tribune reported.

Washington, D.C., officials cut $15 million from the Metropolitan Police Department’s budget in June by removing vacant positions and denying a cadet program expansion, The Washington Post reported. Defund-the-police activists said the cut wasn’t enough despite lawmakers reallocating the money towards alternative violence-reduction programs.

“This current fiscal year saw a decrease in hiring for police officer candidates, however the decrease was due to budget reductions, not lack of candidate interest,” Los Angeles Police Department Commanding Officer of Recruitment and Employment Division Captain Aaron McCraney told the DCNF. “The LAPD maintains a robust list of candidates that are processing for hire and will be selected upon restoration of funding.”

A jury found Chauvin guilty and he was convicted of both second and third-degree murder as well as manslaughter on April 20, the Daily Caller reported. His lawyer submitted an appeal after information was revealed about a juror participating in Black Lives Matter protests before the trial, the Associated Press reported.

On the same day the verdict of the Chauvin trial was announced, officers in Columbus, Ohio, fatally shot 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant who was holding a knife, NBC News reported. Bryant’s death has led to widespread protests against police violence in Columbus, recreating the intense atmosphere between law enforcement and activists that was prevalent last summer.

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