LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles Police Department is struggling to recruit enough qualified candidates as fewer people are applying to join the nation's third-largest police force.
The department is down more than 100 officers since the decline began several months ago and has to hire about 350 officers a year to account for attrition, according to the Los Angeles Times. Officials worry the force could be understaffed for years if the current trend continues.
"Our entire plan is getting screwed up. ... We don't see an end to it," said LAPD Assistant Chief Sandy Jo MacArthur, who oversees recruitment and training for the department. "It is a very big red flag for us. Once you start losing ground, it is so hard to climb back."
The department earlier this year celebrated a long-sought goal of having 10,000 officers. But there are fewer applicants and among those who do apply there are a higher number being disqualified from consideration.
Other factors are contributing to the shortage. Other law enforcement departments are luring top talent away from LAPD with higher salaries. Budget cuts also have forced LAPD to get rid of nearly all of its radio and television commercials as well as its billboard advertisements.
The number of women and black recruits who make it into the training academy also has dropped, leaving the department far short of diversity goals it established decades ago to counter discriminatory hiring practices.
City figures show the percentage of applicants who don't make it through the vetting process has jumped by a third. Many of those are eliminated because of their responses to past drug use, financial problems and prior run-ins with the law.
"We aren't recruiting at the Vatican," said John Dunlop, chief of the personnel department's backgrounds division. "We have applicants who have lived their lives. ... There are a lot of issues to investigate."
The pool of available candidates nearly ran dry over the summer, forcing the department to cancel some academy classes. Only 88 recruits have entered the academy since July, officials said, nearly half below the 160 required to keep up with the attrition rate.