Dealing With Record-High Murder Rates, Philadelphia Struggling To Recruit Police Officers

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Philadelphia is struggling to find new police officers to join the force, even though the department is severely understaffed, according to a Thursday report.

John McNesby, President of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Lodge #5, told ABC6 News that a combination of the coronavirus pandemic putting police training on hold, a decreasing amount of people wanting to become police officers in big cities, and a spike in retirements have all contributed to the problem.

Typically, training to be a Philadelphia police officer begins every three months with dozens of new recruits. Now, the new officer training isn’t expected to begin until May after their last class graduated in December of 2020. (RELATED: Multiple Police Departments Won’t Say How They Are Preparing For Potential Protests Surrounding Election Day)

“And you got to remember that once you go into the academy, it takes you about 10 months to finish,” McNesby said. “So, we’re not looking at putting any boots on the ground until maybe next Spring.”

Then, you throw in the recent changes to the department’s residency rules mandating all police trainees live in Philadelphia before they enter the academy.

“Nobody is going to move to Philadelphia hoping that they get a job,” he continued, referring to the department’s new residency rules requiring that police trainees must live in the city before beginning police training. “They want to make sure they secure employment, then move in.”

The suburbs, however, are having no problem finding police officers.

Richard Vona, the director of the Bucks County Police Training Center, told ABC6 that the application for spring testing has only been open for a week, but spots are filling quickly. “But I do see a number of officers from some of the bigger cities like New York and Philadelphia.”

McNewsby told the outlet that the Philadelphia Police Department is operating “at dangerously low levels.” He said that they are understaffed by hundreds of officers.

Meanwhile, Philadelphia is dealing with record-high crime rates. (RELATED: Philadelphia Man Charged After Allegedly Making Thousands From Multiple Contract Killings)

In 2020, the number of homicides reached a 30-year high, the police department’s online database showed according to Philadelphia Tribune. There were 499 homicides in Philadelphia in 2020, a 40% increase from 2019 and the highest number since 1990, when there were 500 killings.

Other big cities faced the same problem, according to the Tribune. As of December 20, there were 437 homicides in New York City, an increase of 39.2% from the same period last year. There were 738 killings in Chicago as of January 3, a 48.8% increase. And Los Angeles had 343 homicides as of January 2, an increase of 33.5%.