Law Enforcement Support

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Missouri’s U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt said one of the biggest challenges confronting law enforcement today is staffing shortages caused by record-high departures and the difficulty recruiting new officers.

Speaking on the Senate floor, Blunt, a Republican and co-chair of the Senate Law Enforcement Caucus, said the root cause of this problem was predictable.

“These staff shortages are unfortunate,” Blunt said. “But they’re in so many ways predictable of a movement that villainizes law enforcement for, I think, political gain in many cases. Officers have been demoralized by the ‘defund the police’ crusade. They’ve been discouraged by prosecutors who put dangerous criminals back on the street or even put out a list of crimes that people will not be prosecuted for.”

Nationwide, interest in becoming a police officer is down significantly. It’s been that way for several years. But it is acute right now especially in places like St. Louis City and County. Hiring anyone in this economy is a challenge but it is particularly difficult for law enforcement agencies.

Blunt mentioned the Eastern Missouri Police Academy had about half as many recruits join in 2021 than they had in 2020. He said officer departures in St. Louis City and County spiked in 2021 and were at pace to be up 60 percent in each of those departments compared to an average year.

“In my hometown of Springfield, Missouri, they have 40 vacancies right now they’re trying to fill on the department,” said Blunt. “In January, the Columbia, Missouri Police Department had around 20 vacancies in a force that, at its maximum size, would be 187 or so people.”

 
Pelton said the additional revenue generated by Prop P, a half-cent sales tax Franklin county voters passed overwhelmingly in 2018, helped stabilize his department. A large chunk of the proceeds were directed to increasing officer salaries. He said he isn’t experiencing the kind of attrition other departments are throughout Missouri.
 
Still, Pelton acknowledged the trends aren’t good. “People are just not getting into law enforcement like they used to. But we are really fortunate for the support we receive here. It has made a difference.” he said.
 
That community support is absolutely critical to the health and well-being of any law enforcement agency.
 
“When I talk to police chiefs, I hear concerns that a lot of good candidates are deciding maybe law enforcement won’t be the career they want to have,” Blunt said in his remarks. “When I talk to the sworn officers that I see here every day and I see at home, I hear many of them feel they just simply have a job where they face danger but they don’t get enough support that they need to do the job they need to do.”
 
Support for law enforcement. In many ways, community support is the key ingredient to a healthy law enforcement.
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