America's largest police departments see significant increase in departures in 2021: Report

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A new study exclusively obtained by Fox News found an alarming increase in retirements and resignations across 10 police departments in the U.S. over the past year following protests. 

Research from the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund (LELDF) analyzed active police memberships and activity from June 1, 2020, to April 30, 2021, and compared it to the same period a year prior – meaning the study analyzed the numbers before and after the murder of George Floyd, which prompted national and global protests that demanded police reform to the tune of “Defund the Police.” 

During that period, researchers found an 18% increase in overall voluntary law enforcement departures, including a 24% increase in overall voluntary resignations and 14% increase in overall voluntary retirements. 

“In the wake of the anti-police movement and Floyd protests, cops – unwanted and unappreciated by their political leaders – officers are running for the exits. Resignations and retirements at the largest police agencies in the United States are skyrocketing while recruitment is tanking,” said LELDF President Jason Johnson.

The study cited riots and the Defund movement as prime motivating factors for the push.

“I wouldn’t take [a job as a police chief],” said former NYPD Commissioner and current LAPD Chief Bill Bratton. “The ability to succeed in this climate … the progressive district attorneys’ policies just aren’t going to work.”

The study looks at data from Cleveland; Pittsburgh; Austin; Las Vegas; Chicago; San Jose; Los Angeles County; Washington, D.C.; San Francisco and Miami-Dade. Researchers selected these cities due to their size, location relative to anti-police events and rising homicide figures, LELDF President Jason Johnson told Fox News.

Those numbers account for 1 in 9 officer departures in San Jose, 1 in 12 officer departures in Las Vegas, 1 in 10 officer departures in Cleveland and 1 in 11 officer departures in Austin. 

“This is something that we’ve been warning about for years,” Contee told Fox News last week, following a news conference where he gave an update on a brazen double shooting in D.C.’s popular Logan Circle a day earlier that sent bystanders running for their lives. “We don’t really have the ability to hire officers right now. We have a defined amount of resources to deal with a very large city that continues to grow.”

Cleveland saw a 130% increase in retirements, while Austin saw a 63% increase in resignations, representing the sharpest increases across departments analyzed. Only San Francisco saw a decrease in numbers in both categories while Pittsburgh saw a decrease in resignations.

“I call it a crisis because it is a crisis,” interim Austin Police Chief Joseph Chacon noted. Greater Austin Crime Commission member Cary Roberts noted a 96% increase in murders — an increase that started before the city council voted to strip millions from the police department, but which will prove increasingly challenging thanks to the thinning force. 

“When they get there, they then likely have to wait for back-up,” said Kevin Lawrence, who serves as executive director of the Texas Municipal Police Association. “They don’t have the resources they need to actually address whatever the situation is.” 

The Austin Police Department now has 300 sworn officer vacancies, according to the study. The study correlated this with a 56% increase in homicides during the same time. Similarly, Chicago recorded a 20% jump in retirements and resignations, which the study correlated with an overall 50% drop in arrests and 52% rise in homicides.

“It’s an utter failure in the judicial system,” Chicago Democratic Alderman Matt O’Shea said, noting that the issue is complicated. “We see thousands of criminals released. When I talk to police officers on the street, I hear repeatedly they feel that leadership in the city, people in the city, do not support them.”

O’Shea added that the number of police officers in the city has fallen by 1,000 compared to a couple years ago, citing retirements and a diminished number of people going to the police academy. Chicago Police told Fox News it did not have data on how many sworn officers there are today compared to previous years, directing the outlet to its Freedom of Information Act department for the information. 

Some cities, such as New York City – which hosts the largest police force in the country – did not comply with a request for data or failed to provide complete data. The LELDF requested data from some 30 agencies across the country. 

Fox News’ Casey Stegall, Louis Casiano, Andrew Murray and Emma Colton contributed to this report. 

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