HOLLYWOOD (TND) — Cities across the U.S. are losing police officers like never before — potentially leaving American communities more vulnerable to crime. To fill those crucial gaps, some departments are offering tens of thousands of dollars in bonuses to hire the next men and women in uniform. What will it take to keep enough officers on our streets?
If you stroll down the Hollywood Walk of Fame, you’ll run right into a restaurant owned by Tim Ratcliff.
“It’s probably the busiest corner in Hollywood,” he says of his sushi spot Shin on La Brea Avenue in California. There is so much activity, between the foot and vehicle traffic, that Ratcliff put up cameras around the hot spot; a spot that is now a flashpoint for a larger discussion after an incident in August.
“I was actually sitting down right here at the table to have lunch with my girlfriend. Right as I sat down, I looked over and a homeless man had come over and he sucker punched a 64-year-old man in the head. Uh, knocked him over,” says Ratcliff, who captured the incident on his cameras. “What went through my mind right then is, 'You crossed the line. This was too far. You can't, you can't do this and just get away with it.'"
Ratcliff chased the attacker into the street and pinned him down, waiting for police to arrive. It took a full 12 minutes, he says, for an officer to get on the scene.
It’s taking longer to respond to emergency calls, crimes in progress,” said Chuck Wexler, the executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), which has studied the issue across the country.
Wexler’s group looked at 37 states, and the District of Columbia, and found since the summer of 2020, police resignations went up 40% in a year. Staffing is down 6.6% in the Midwest, and 4.4% in the western U.S. Hiring is also trending down.
According to a recent survey, crime has spiked during the same period by 4% with robberies up 12%.
Spotlight on America found major American cities are now waving big bucks, in high-stakes bidding, to attract the best and brightest cops.
Seattle and New Orleans are offering candidates $30,000 signing bonuses. Portland, Oregon, is offering $20,000 and Fairfax, Virginia, offered $15,000 to every new police recruit.
It’s not just about the money. PERF found departments easing some of their long-held restrictions, from allowing tattoos to reducing some education requirements, and in Los Angeles, they’re raising private money to help new officers cover housing costs.
“We're challenged,” says Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore, who sat down for an extensive interview with Spotlight on America. He says in each of the past two years, about 100 more officers have retired than in years past. That’s led to longer response times and an uptick in crime he does connect with the shortage. He’s had to pull resources from investigations as well.
In the sense, we reorganized the organization away from the cold case team that worked in a homicide division and is now being worked by reserves,” he told Spotlight on America.
Steve Soboroff is an LAPD commissioner and put together the housing fund, which he says is now well north of a million dollars. “People come out here and say, 'Wait a minute, I can't afford to live here.' It was like a categorical eliminator for people that we need,” he told Spotlight on America. “I believe that getting something done, triggering the government to do things, is a skill that a lot of Americans have that they're just not using.” He added, “The private sector triggered a beta test.”
Ratcliff doesn’t fault the police and wishes there were more around Hollywood. He says he has noticed an uptick in crime ever since the LAPD started losing officers and worries about what long-term issues surrounding short staffing will mean for him.
“We're having to deal with it,” he said.
You can watch our extended interview with LA's Police Chief above.