NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Serious Shortages Of Police Recruits

November 21, 2000

From New York City to Phoenix, police officials say it has never been more difficult to find promising recruits. Declining numbers of applicants are forcing police departments to accept candidates who formerly would have been rejected outright -- those who may have histories of drug use, are out of shape or who lie about their past.

  • New York City, which fell 300 hires short of filling 1,600 slots in its police academy, has dropped the minimum age of recruits from 22 to 21.
  • Detroit has 500 vacancies and needs to hire 11.9 percent more recruits.
  • Eighty percent of police candidates in Baltimore failed to become officers because they admitted to recent drug use or were caught lying about drugs or other aspects of their lives.
  • Phoenix recruiters estimate that 30 percent to 50 percent of recruits there fail the required polygraph test.

Obviously, the booming economy is attracting potential recruits to other, often higher-paying jobs.

But another factor is the Clinton administration's six-year, $8 billion grant program to put 100,000 more officers on the streets by the end of this year. The program will fall short of that goal -- since only about 68,000 officers had been hired or reassigned to patrol duty as of June. So federal officials have extended the effort for another two years.

Source: Kevin Johnson, "Police Struggle to Find Next Generation," USA Today, November 21, 2000.


Browse more articles on Government Issues