Local Police Departments Struggle to Find Recruits

If you want to be a police officer in the D.C. area, you have dozens of options to choose from.

Local police departments are competing for recruits as they struggle to keep up with the growing demand for new officers across the region. Of the four largest police departments in the D.C. area, all of them are short-staffed, data shows.

Competition with other departments and the negative perception many people have of police are some of the challenges the department faces when finding recruits, Metropolitan Police Chief Peter Newsham said. 

"A lot of departments are struggling with the same thing. If we weren't in a bubble, it would not be as much of a struggle," Newsham said.

The problem has led some departments to find new ways to recruit members.

A group of Prince George's County police officers showed up to an event in the District a few weeks ago, trying to lure District officers to Maryland. It's a tactic Newsham is familiar with.

"The grass may look greener on the other side, but this is a good agency with a great reputation," Newsham said.


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Mayor Muriel Bowser introduced the newest class of recruits at the training academy Wednesday. She said she would like to see the MPD reach its full staff goal of 4000 sworn officers, but it's about 200 recruits short of meeting that goal.

Of the 3800 officers that make up the department, almost 300 of them are eligible to retire. 

Now, the MPD is recruiting in places one might not expect. 

"Getting into elementary schools and making sure police are here to help," Bowser said. 

Several recruit officers shared why they chose the D.C. police department. For recruit officer William Smith, it was an easy choice: He said he wants to be a cop in the neighborhood he grew up in.

"We can't talk about change we want to see if we’re not part of that change," Smith said. 

Here are some of the staffing levels of police departments across the region:

Arlington County Police

374  full staff goal, 352 currently staffed

D.C. Police Department

4000  full staff goal, 3796 currently staffed (274 retirement elegible)

Fairfax County Police

1476 full staff goal, 1265 currently staffed

Montgomery County Police

1305 full staff goal, 1265 currently staffed (does not include 22 new recruits)

Prince George's County

1786 full staff goal, 1596 currently staffed

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