Officer Retention

Steven Grammas

I hope this first article of 2024 finds you happy and healthy. Coming off of 2023, it appears our profession will continue to struggle with the retention that it so desperately needs. Toward the end of 2023, several news outlets and media groups were reporting the struggles of law enforcement to retain their commissioned officers. An online media publication reported that “over 2,500 cops have handed in their badges so far this year.” These numbers are quite staggering! In NYC, this has caused many officers to work extreme amounts of overtime just to cover their basic police functions.

The Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) conducted a survey of police departments across the country, asking many questions about retention and separation numbers. PERF reported that in 2019, there were 2,838 resignations and 3,043 retirements; 2020 had 2,822 resignations and 3,420 retirements; and 2021 had 3,831 resignations and 3,920 retirements. All three years still showed retirement numbers surpassing voluntary resignations, as would be expected in our profession. We should see more people doing this job long enough to retire as opposed to quitting before retirement. However, in 2022, there were 4,175 resignations and only 3,625 retirements. This is the first time in four years that people quitting our profession surpassed those retiring after their careers. Numbers like these show a stark reality that police officers are, in fact, leaving our profession in greater numbers under a resignation as opposed to a retirement.

Here in our own neck of the woods, at LVMPD, we had approximately 252 separations in 2022. Currently, we have 182 vacancies on the police side and 21 vacancies on the corrections side. As is common practice, when a commissioned officer leaves our agency, the PPA gets the separation notices. We have spoken to many who have between 11–18 years and asked why they were leaving without reaching a higher level of benefit from their retirement. Some reasons were “I don’t want to do this job anymore,” “I don’t think this Department supports us,” and “I can make more money in the private sector.”

This used to be a job where people could stay for 25–30 years while standing on their heads. Now, people are leaving even before getting close to a 50% benefit in their pension, one of the driving factors in doing a public sector job. I do believe that the last year here at LVMPD has changed some of the thought processes of our officers, and many have shifted into wanting to stay longer, but time will tell. Are we only one more summer of riots or contagious illness away from a mass exodus here at LVMPD and the CLV? I know our Academy numbers, which show that the interest in joining our Department has stayed high, which is a change from years back when we were having graduations of 25–30. Again, time will tell if we here in Las Vegas are any different from a place like New York City or if we will suffer the same fate of diminished numbers and overworked officers.

Have a safe and happy 2024, and as always, the PPA is only a phone call away. Thank you for your membership. Stay safe.