Bullets are flying in the nation’s cities at a depressing rate. The city of Chicago is now the poster child for low police morale, in September reporting over 520 homicides in 2016 alone. Since 2008, the department has lost nearly 300 detectives, and the rate at which murders are solved now rivals the lowest in the nation.
Law enforcement has long been considered somewhat of a thankless job, and piling on weekly accusations of police misconduct amid a contentious national debate about racial bias means more officers are finding public distrust added to their uniform. A Gallup poll taken in July reported just 58% of white respondents expressed confidence in the police. The number for black respondents was even lower at just 29%.
Low pay and unfunded public pensions due to budget deficits are also leading to staffing shortages that some blame for an increasingly demoralized police force. Even before the outbreak of damaging viral videos, the President of the Fraternal Order of Police said, “For the last six or eight years, proactive law enforcement has come to a stop because of shortage of personnel.” Early retirement and higher pay elsewhere is luring seasoned officers from the force. The detective unit in Chicago alone has dropped by 330 positions since 2008. The department announced in September it will be hiring over 1,000 new officers over the next two years, but the impact on department morale remains uncertain.
The steady drumbeat of pessimism has prompted pro-police rallies and ‘Blue Lives Matter’ signs from people that desire to “stand up for the good guys.” American flags with a blue stripe have also appeared on porches and storefronts across the country, and some communities have even painted blue stripes on roadways in the gap between the yellow center lines.
Mahwah, New Jersey resident Susan Larson says it’s a first step. “I mean, people need to hear each other’s sides, certainly.”
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