The city of Albany budgets for 343 police officers, but it’s currently down 65 positions – enough to trigger mandatory overtime during some shifts, according to its spokesman. 

“Yes, we’re about 65 short right now, which is essentially the amount of cops required to fill a whole station,” APD Spokesman Steve Smith told Capital Tonight. “This means the cops required to fill the midnight, day and afternoon shifts at that station.”

While many industry sectors are reporting issues with recruitment and retention thanks to low unemployment levels, Dennis Kenney, a professor at the John Jay School of Criminal Justice and a former police officer, told Capital Tonight that police agencies across the country have been hit especially hard – and from both sides of the political spectrum.

“On one side, the unions, for example, complain about the lack of support for police and a lack of clarity and uncertainty about what’s expected of police,” said Kenney. “On the other side, there are concerns about what the police do, the ability of police to relate to communities, and the generally negative image that the police have among many communities.”

Smith added that tragedies that have occurred at the hands of police, like the murder of George Floyd, have also hurt recruitment.

“High profile incidents that occur in other locations in the U.S. can certainly deter people who may be interested in a career I law enforcement,” he said.

According to Dr. Kenney, the police shortage is an opportunity for police agency leadership to reflect on, and redefine, what police do.

“When we talk about police shortages, it generally refers to an accepted mathematical formula of number of officers per 100,000 citizens,” said Kenney. “It doesn’t get into the question of what those officers are doing, what it is we want them to do, what guidance we give them on how to do it.”

When asked about the shortage of both of teachers, an issue Capital Tonight reported on earlier this week, as well as police officers, Kenney noted that both jobs are performed by civil servants who are fundamental to preventing the fraying of society. 

“The competition for both teachers and police shouldn’t be as problematic as it is,” Kenney noted. “I think what we’re seeing is that there’s already been some fraying.  Much of the debate now is around what teachers do, what teachers teach.  And the same thing with police.  I think in the case of both professions it’s an opportunity for leaders to reflect on the importance of these positions and to accentuate that.”