Sgt. Clyde Boatwright, president of the Maryland Fraternal Order of Police State Lodge, told Washington Watch on Friday that low morale has many officers nationwide questioning whether they want to return to work the next day. That, he said, is tied to one thing: Lack of support from the people in charge.
"Our police officers are fighting battles every day about whether or not to stay within this profession because of some of the legislation that's been put forward, some of the attacks on officers' pensions, [and] the idea that all police officers are in some ways racist," Boatwright told show host Jody Hice.
In August, the entire police force of Goodhue, Minnesota resigned due to pay disputes with city leaders.
"That far-left-leaning rhetoric that our elected officials spew against our police officers is having people second guess whether or not they want to continue to stay in this profession," Boatwright reiterated.
Such rhetoric, he said, continues to "push wedges" between officers and the communities they are trying to serve.
Meanwhile, some police departments are responding to staffing shortages in unusual ways.
In September, the Austin, Texas police asked residents to call 311 – a number typically reserved for non-emergencies – as opposed to 911 if they are robbed while making cash withdrawals at an ATM.
In San Francisco, with more than 500 job openings, SFPD leadership has focused on hiring "ambassadors" – unarmed individuals, many of them retired police officers – to supplement a police presence.
In Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser, a Democrat, told reporters in October that it was time to correct failed policies.
"We have to reverse the policy environment in the city that, quite frankly, went haywire in the last three years," said Bowser, who has been in office since 2015.
Boatwright fears the lack of qualified police could have catastrophic effects. As department heads go about filling open positions, he says lowering standards could result in more mistakes and the formation of questionable allegiances.
For example, though marijuana use is legal in many places today, it would have been a disqualifying factor for service in years past. Disregarding that standard means individuals could quickly go from skirting the law with local gangs to serving as a law enforcement official.
In other words, gangs could easily influence police departments, and Boatwright calls that "a real danger to our communities."
"In our profession, we know that drugs go along with guns," he noted. "Drugs and guns go along with gangs. I fear that we'll start to see members with gang affiliations start to infiltrate our ranks."
He believes officers should have good moral character and be ethical in their actions.
"It's up to our local police departments to do their due diligence with background investigations," said Boatwright.