LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — The trend could first be seen nation-wide and now is here in Mid-Michigan.
Law enforcement agencies are struggling with staffing for any of a number of reasons.
“We’ve seen a trend in retirements, early retirements and deputies leaving to take positions outside of law enforcement,” said Jackson County Sheriff Gary Schuette.
“Things are challenging on the recruiting front right now,” added Dwyane Gill, who is a sergeant in charge of recruiting for the Michigan State Police.
Schuette says he’s heard that across all units in Michigan, law enforcement is down around 4,000 officers. The question becomes, why? One common belief is it’s the change in perception of law enforcement in recent years — particularly since the murder of George Floyd.
“Some (who have left) have been specific in saying that they just don’t want to be a part of law enforcement anymore because they’re concerned about the view on law enforcement right now,” Schuette said.
Gil heads up recruiting for Michigan State Police and while he says rhetoric is a big factor, but there’s more behind the trend.
“Changing that perception…would probably be good,” Gil said. (But on top of that) there’s so many other options for young people to do nowadays, that some type of police work might not be a priority like it used to be.”
Scott Wolfe, a criminal justice professor at Michigan State University, agrees with Schutte, saying changing the narrative and optics are going to be the key if this ever flips around.
“The changes we need in policing require the best officers,” Wolfe said. “People that are most impacted by violence don’t want less police, they want good policing in their communities.”
As for Gil, he’s optimistic, saying if officers are around for the right reason, the numbers will go up by themselves.
“We want to be guardians of the public, we can be warriors when we have to be, but we have to emphasize being guardians,” Gil said. “As long as we can go that path…I think the recruiting will take care of itself.”