Roundtable: Should police change standards for new officers?

Rush Hour Roundtable

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – OCTOBER 20: New police officers are sworn in at a Chicago Police Department promotion and graduation ceremony on October 20, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. The city of Chicago has started to place police officers on unpaid leave for refusing to comply with the city’s requirements that they report their COVID-19 vaccination status. Only about 65 percent of the city’s police have complied with the order. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Police departments across the nation are struggling to staff up, with 65 percent of law enforcement agencies saying there’s just not enough people applying to wear the badge.

Beyond that, 78 percent of agencies say they can’t find qualified candidates, with as many as 25 percent saying shortages are so bad they had to reduce or even eliminate services, positions and police units. 

So local governments and police departments are looking for strategies to bring in new officers.

Last week, New York City’s Law Department told the police department to end marijuana drug testing for officers due to a new state law. The only exception would be if there’s reasonable suspicion that an officer is impaired on the job.

Hours after that memo, the department quickly backpedaled, saying it would review conflicts with the new state law.

Some officers are welcoming the possible change to drug testing to conform with the times, while others worry it would set a bad example.

So: should police departments change their standards to allow more people to be officers? 

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