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How is the prospect of police reform impacting police departments?

Many departments report declines in applications to be an officer
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Posted at 2:06 PM, May 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-24 16:06:56-04

TRENTON, N.J. — Tuesday marks one year since George Floyd's murder in Minnesota.

It also marks the day President Joe Biden wanted Congress to pass comprehensive police reform.

While Biden will be meeting with the Floyd family, he will not be signing any legislation because no deal has been reached on Capitol Hill.

IMPACT OF POLICE REFORM ON POLICE

The New Jersey State Police usually has 10,000 to15,000 applications to become a member of their department in a given year. This year, only 3,600 applied.

"Across the country, we are seeing a decline in those applying," said Colonel Patrick Callahan with the New Jersey State Police.

"This is a historically low application process for us," Callahan said.

Callahan doesn't put the blame on police reform entirely, but it is a contributing factor.

"I don’t think I could stand here and say no reform is needed," Callahan said.

"People say to me all the time, 'you couldn’t pay me enough to do that job,'" Callahan added.

With that being said, Callahan does believe this time of uncertainty is creating a better class of candidates, even if they are fewer in numbers.

"I think of the greatest generation and when they came back from World War II, dug their heals in. I think that is that opportunity too," Callahan said.

What Callahan is seeing is being felt by police departments across the country.

The Police Executive Research Forum says there has been a 63% decrease nationwide in applying to become a police officer.

More early retirements are being reported too.

DEPARTMENTS SEEING MORE INTEREST

Not every department is seeing a decline however.

"We are an anomaly," said Chief Keith Germain of the Barnegat, New Jersey Police Department.

His agency only has about 52 officers, but when four openings recently occurred, over 400 officers applied.

"Many of those applicants were NYPD, Philly PD," Chief Germain said.

A few factors are being contributed to the spike. For one, Barnegat has far less crime than police in major cities experience.

Germain also believes smaller communities are supporting local police right now.

Not to mention, Barnegat pays their officers around $130,000 a year with five-year experience.

"You have to pay them well to get them in the door," Chief Germain said.

As police reform continues to be talked about in Congress, however, Germain is keeping a close eye.

While "reform talk" hasn't impacted his department yet, he believes getting rid of policies like qualified immunity, which protects officers from most lawsuits, could impact numbers.

"You are simply creating an environment where police officers are going to be hesitant to take action," Germain added.