As reported by NJ.com, retaining police officers has been a challenge for many New Jersey municipal police departments. Shortfalls in city and municipal budgets can, and have lead to layoffs and demotions. When Senior police officers retire their positions never get refilled and the data shows that this occurs more often than not in New Jersey cities with the most violent crime rates. In addition, as a result of the two percent (2%) interest arbitration salary cap, the two percent (2%) property tax cap levy and the “social media” difficulties associated with policing, recruitment and retention has been extremely difficult.
Despite the foregoing, there are police departments that are actively taking steps to reverse attrition and bolster their ranks. NJ Advance Media analyzed seven years worth of data turned in by municipal law enforcement agencies to the FBI and found the 20 police departments across the state that have lost the most employees — both civilians and officers — from 2010 to 2016.
In terms of percentage decreases, Medford and Pemberton having each lost over 40% of their officers from 2010 to 2016, have experienced the largest reduction in ranks according to the NJ.Com sampling. Yet, in terms of the sheer number of officer reductions, Newark, Paterson, Trenton, and East Orange lead the pack as they have all experienced a substantial reduction in their law enforcement workforce.
It is also worth noting that in performing a cross reference with NJ.com’s list of towns with the highest violent crime rates, thirteen of the municipalities with the highest increases in crime were also included in the towns with the largest shrinking police forces. Taking all of this together, one must scratch their head in trying to figure out the phenomenon that is occurring across the state of New Jersey where our largest most violent cities are now being policed with less officers. Additionally, the pay that our largest city’s officers receive is no where near the top officer salary reflected across the state. While are cities are being asked to do more with less money so to are our law enforcement officers. We will continue to review this data as it becomes available, especially in light of the changing social perceptions of police work and the changes in pay and benefits associated with the position of employment.