Police forces are suffering from diminishing ranks, slumping morale and declining public support as the nation nears the end of a summer defined by protests against policing tactics and racial injustice, reports the Washington Post. Agency leaders and experts say the months of demonstrations have left officers strained and departments struggling to both recruit officers and keep the ones they have. The Portland, Or., Police Bureau lost 49 officers to retirement in August, more than during all of 2019. The Atlanta Police Department, which became the focus of protests after a police shooting this summer, said about 140 officers have resigned this year, up from 80 last year. “Our workforce in general is pretty emotionally and physically fatigued,” said William H. “Skip” Holbrook, police chief in Columbia, S.C.
Weary officers were shaken by the Sept. 12 ambush shooting of two Los Angeles County Sheriffs’ deputies as they sat in a police car. After the shooting, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said that critics of police need to “stop fanning the flames of hatred.” Officials have not identified a potential suspect or motive in the attack. There has been no spike in fatal shootings of police this year, and deaths in the line of duty have declined since the 1970s. Combined with the surge in nationwide demonstrations and calls to defund their departments, police feel under siege. “The police feel really . . . pushed into a corner,” said Chuck Wexler of the Police Executive Research Forum. Public opinion has shifted. In a survey this summer, the Pew Research Center found that while most Americans still believe police do an excellent or a good job protecting people from crime, the percentage who think they use the right amount of force, treat racial groups equally and hold officers accountable for misconduct fell by double-digit points since 2016.