Philadelphia police shortage developing into very real concern, FOP president says

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- In Philadelphia, police are having trouble finding new recruits to join the force, even as officials say the department is severely understaffed.

FOP Lodge #5 President John McNesby says it's kind of like a perfect storm developing.

The eye of the storm revolves around several issues including a dramatic rise in the number of Philadelphia police officers filing for retirement, a diminishing pool of young people who even want to be a big city cop, and the suspension of new officer training because of the pandemic.

Under normal circumstances, there would be dozens of new recruits coming in for training every three months.

RELATED: New regulations require Philadelphia police recruits be residents of city for a year

Now though, the most recent class graduated last December, and the next one isn't expected to begin until next month.

"And you got to remember that once you go into the academy, it takes you about 10 months to finish. So, we're not looking at putting any boots on the ground until maybe next Spring," McNesby said.

Then, you throw in the recent changes to the department's residency rules mandating all police trainees live in Philadelphia before they enter the academy.

"Nobody is going to move to Philadelphia hoping that they get a job. They want to make sure they secure employment, then move in," he said.

Richard Vona, director of the Bucks County Police Training Center, said all of these issues are also inspiring younger officers from the city to seek employment in the suburbs, and not just from Philadelphia. His spring testing dates are filling quickly.

"The application has only been open for a week," Vona said. "But I do see a number of officers from some of the bigger cities like New York and Philadelphia."

McNesby says the Philadelphia Police Department is already understaffed to the tune of hundreds of officers.

"Coupled with the pandemic, in the future, getting classes in and getting them through the academy, we're at dangerously low levels," he said.
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