The war on the police is having an effect.

Apparently, when mobs chant “What do we want? Dead cops,” potential recruits to law enforcement must think it’s a good idea to look elsewhere for career possibilities.

Police departments, both in cities and in rural areas, are having a tough time recruiting new people to the force.

Charles Fain Lehman lays out the statistics in an excellent piece in City Journal. Nashville’s police force in 2010 had around 4,700 online applications; last year it was down to 1,900. Seattle’s police department has seen a decline of 40 to 50 percent in applications. Jefferson County in Colorado reports a whopping 70 percent decline.

Eighty percent of police chiefs in the country said that they are experiencing a shortage in sworn officers. Half said that the situation has grown worse in the last five years.

This should not surprise us, but it should alarm us. Lehman explains:

The current hiring struggles reflect the slow undoing of the past quarter-century’s trend of growing American police forces. Data from the Census Bureau’s Annual Survey of Public Employment and Payroll (ASPEP)—which counts the national number of public employees—paint a stark picture. In the early 1990s, roughly 500,000 sworn officers worked in the U.S., equivalent to 213 per 100,000 people in the population.

During this period, violent crime finally peaked after rising continuously for almost three decades, and then began a long drop. One reason for this substantial decline was a massive increase in the number of cops, not just in New York, but across the country. Substantial empirical evidence indicates that more cops on the beat means less crime on the street.

There are a number of reasons cited for the decline: fewer candidates join law enforcement or the military because of family ties. Policing is more complicated, requiring more technological expertise, and then there is the psychic toll.

Lehman didn’t highlight what is likely another reason for difficulties in recruitment. That is the way police are treated nowadays. 

A fairly recent example was the November mob that protested having to pay to ride the subway and signs reading “F–k the police” and “NYPD KKK.” The New York Post reported that, despite official promises to send in additional help for the police, it didn’t look as if that had happened. This left cops on the scene in a terrible situation:

“Cops are hesitant — they’re second guessing themselves,” Sergeants Benevolent Association president Ed Mullins told The Post. “These anti-police protests are growing,” he said, but “cops don’t want to engage. Because they fear that if it goes bad, the NYPD is not going to back them.”

Who would volunteer to do a tough job that is undeservedly disrespected and far more more dangerous because of lack of support and rage?