Mass. Police Agencies Face Understaffing as Retirements, Resignations Outpace New Hires

Many blame a battered public opinion on policing as a contributing factor

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But police departments across the state of Massachusetts are understaffed, as they deal with a rash of retirements and trouble recruiting new faces to the force.

The Massachusetts Police Association said that as public perception of policing takes a hit, less people want to become officers, and more are calling it quits to retire.

"There have been less and less people who look at this as an honorable profession," executive director Jim Machado said. "And the people who normally might stay beyond retirement age are now saying this is the time to go. Enough's enough."

The Boston Police Department says it's in dire need of more officers.

Machado said that some departments are down 20% to 30% of their force, leading to rising overtime budgets and officer burnout.

The Cambridge Police Department said it has around 20 officer vacancies, and a smaller pool of applicants.

"When you add those vacancies on top of any officers that may be out sick, out on injury, whatever it may be, it quickly adds up," spokesperson for the department Jeremy Warnick said.

The agency hopes that its growing diversity and cadet program attract new officers.

"We do feel like we have a great story here in Cambridge, in terms of what we're able to offer prospective student officers," Warnick said.

Financial incentives have become more common, as departments work to keep the officers they have, as well as attract new help.

"Some places have given large raises and other benefits in order to retain officers," Machado said. "As it comes to recruitment, they're now offering signing bonuses."

A national survey of nearly 200 police agencies by the Police Executive Research Forum showed improving hiring numbers in 2022, but it wasn't enough to offset the number of retirements and resignations.

Many in the force believe improving the narrative about what police do needs to be a priority.

"We do a tremendous amount of work for the public," Boston Police Commissioner Michael Cox said in March. "We’re needed in so many different ways. We just need to make sure the narrative about what we do and how we do it is reflected accurately."

Massachusetts State Police said it is not experiencing a shortage of candidates.

This year's police civil service exam was held a couple weeks ago.

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