ST. LOUIS — Many local law enforcement agencies are finding it increasingly difficult to fill their ranks. It's a nationwide issue that's hitting home for many St. Louis-area police departments.
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office shared a deputy's resignation letter Monday, Sept. 19 on Facebook with a dire warning that the number of law enforcement personnel leaving the department is "not sustainable."
This year, the St. Louis County Police Department reported 31 new hires, 85 job openings and 65 veteran officers leaving the department. The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department saw similar issues, reporting 71 new hires, 165 job openings and 138 veteran officers leaving this year.
President of the Ethical Society of Police Donny Walters said he has an idea of what’s causing the mass exodus in his industry. After nearly 20 years with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, he said the lack of appreciation for officers is a big factor.
"It's hard for officers to come to work when we hear more criticism than praise," Walters said. "It's retention. We aren't appreciating our hardworking police officers. A lot of (people) want community enforcement but don't have community engagement. Let’s stop punishing the officers that do the job right because of the officers that did the job wrong."
Walters said he wans more people from the community to uplift and work with police. He added the appreciation needs to come internally as well.
"Police officers are underpaid, but so are the civilian employees that work with police officers," Walters said.
He said many law enforcement officers are forced to take on second jobs in order to support their families.
If officers continue to leave the industry at record rates, Walters said communities will take public safety into their own hands and hire private security, and the communities that can't afford private security will suffer.