Two separate stories have popped up in the past two days and both of them point toward the same reality: Police in major cities are choosing retirement at a rate that is about double what it normally is. The Chicago Sun Times reports the number of retirements so far this year is about the same as for all of 2018:
Michael Lappe, vice president of the board of trustees for the Policemen’s Annuity and Benefit Fund of Chicago, said 59 police officers are retiring in August, with another 51 retirements set for next month.
“That’s unheard of,” Lappe said. “We’re seeing double the average number of retirees each month. The average is about 24 a month.”…
Retirements in 2020 are on pace to be higher than in any of the past few years. There were 335 police retirements through the end of July, compared with 475 for all of 2019 and 339 for all of 2018, according to pension records.
John Catanzara, president of the police union, says the reasons are obvious: “Who wants to stay in this environment? If you have the ability to leave, there is no incentive to stay anymore.” He added, “The mayor doesn’t back us. If you have the financial ability to do so, I don’t blame a single soul for leaving.”
The San Francisco Chronicle reported the same thing a day earlier:
In the first six months of the year, 23 sworn officers resigned, Police Department records show. Of those, 19 took jobs at other law enforcement agencies, both in California and elsewhere.
By comparison, 26 officers resigned in all of 2019. And only 12 officers resigned in 2018…
If the police exits continue at the current pace, the SFPD is on track to lose nearly twice as many cops this year as it did last year and close to four times as many as in 2018.
In San Francisco, Tony Montoya is president of the Police Officers Association. He told the Chronicle, “The members are upset that the social experiment being conducted in San Francisco is failing, and they would rather work someplace that values them.”
As mentioned above, many of the cops leaving their jobs in San Francisco are taking positions in smaller suburban areas where they get taxed less and have a shorter commute to work. One officer interviewed for the story added, “It’s also nice working at a place where everyone isn’t mad at you.” He continued, “In San Francisco, everyone was mad. The homeowners would get mad because you didn’t move the homeless who were sleeping in front of their house. Then, when you tried to help the homeless, someone would start yelling about police brutality.”
We already know this is happening in other major cities. In New York, there was a 400% increase in the number of officers retiring starting at the end of June. Citing the sudden rush, the city actually put a limit on the number of officers allowed to retire each day.
But not surprisingly the situation appears to be worst in Minneapolis. In July there was a report in the Washington Post that 150 officers planned to file PTSD disability claims and retire. More recently the Star Tribune reported that up to a third of the Minneapolis police force could be gone by the end of this year.
Keep in mind all of this is happening as violent crime is up in these cities, probably because police have pulled back and are taking fewer risks.
When you add all of this up it’s really a perfect storm of bad news for major cities. With the spread of the coronavirus, cities were already suffering loss of jobs and an exodus of people. Now there’s a rise in crime and the retirement of officers. Maybe those various factors will eventually reach some sort of new equilibrium but at the moment it looks like that could be hollowed out, violent cities on a long-term decline. Maybe that’s too negative. Maybe things will bounce back in six months or a year but right now the immediate outlook is pretty grim.