“The American policing profession may be facing the most fundamental questioning of its legitimacy in decades,” said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, in a 2017 organizational newsletter. “The very essence of policing is being debated in many cities, often because of controversial video recordings of police officers’ actions. Community trust has eroded, and the professionalism of the police is being questioned.”
A healthy job market gets some of the credit for the police recruitment crunch but, as Jones and Wexler describe, law enforcement has lost its gloss in the eyes of many Americans.
Public opinion of law enforcement slid to a 22-year low in 2015, according to a Gallup poll. Numbers have somewhat rebounded since, but that only emphasizes a racial gap in perceptions of police. African-Americans, in particular, tend to view cops as the government’s enforcers rather than as protectors, amidst widely publicized racist incidents and concerns that their communities are disproportionately (and corruptly) targeted. In addition, a militarized police culture that arms officers with weapons of war and trains officers to treat the public as enemies