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Police officers driven out by progressive treatment offer next-generation law enforcement a blunt warning

Police departments across the country are warning of a recruiting and retention crisis – while morale among officers plummets and violent crime plagues cities.

Police departments across the country are warning of a recruiting and retention crisis while morale among officers plummets and progressive prosecutors are repeatedly criticized for going after law enforcement more enthusiastically than they go after criminals

They’re also struggling with early departures of young officers who are fed up with the stress, the scrutiny and what they see as a lack of support from their superiors. 

Meagan McCarthy was a San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputy before a near-death encounter with a violent suspect forced her into retirement. She said she always wanted to work for the public’s benefit and attended nursing school before she went on a police ride-along that changed her life.


“The biggest takeaway that I honestly had from law enforcement … you really were the line between good and evil,” she told Fox News Digital. “We responded to things that if the cops wouldn’t have gotten there when they did, it would be horrible situations for people on top of already dangerous situations.”

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She thrived – at first. Now she says she hopes her three children choose not to follow her and her husband’s footsteps and choose another profession – like fighting fires.

“I took a lot of pride in being a cop,” she said. “I love serving the community, and I just wish that law enforcement was able to get that pendulum swinging back for them.”

But her career ended after a schizophrenic suspect nearly killed her with her own gun, and a California jury let him off. She suffered post-traumatic stress and medically retired in 2022, she said.

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McCarthy was the first deputy to respond to a “priority 1” call involving Ari Young, who rushed her as she approached the house, pummeled her to the ground and took her sidearm.

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A neighbor captured the chaos on cellphone video. Young scrambled to fire multiple shots, none of which struck her. Still, the struggle left her with a broken hand and black eye.

Backup arrived moments later, and deputies arrested him on the spot – but jurors later found him not guilty of attempted murder. McCarthy calls his lenient treatment the “Minneapolis Effect.”

Former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of second- and third-degree murder for George Floyd’s death in April 2021. On November 24, 2023, a fellow inmate in a federal prison in Arizona stabbed him 22 times, leaving him severely injured.

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“I am very thankful that there are still men and women out there willing to do the job,” she told Fox News Digital. “My husband still works for the department. I have tons of friends that do it. However, knowing what I know now, it would be really hard for me to go and serve the institution of law enforcement, just because the politicians, the elected officials, our leaders do not have our backs.”

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Not only do law enforcement officers have to worry about their physical safety, she said, they also have to worry about their livelihoods.

“You have to worry about these leaders coming after you years down the road,” she said. “We’re seeing all of these crazy woke district attorneys opening up cases years later. . . . Is my family going to be able to afford a mortgage if something happens to me later down the line?”

Taylor Marino, a former NYPD officer, said he traded in his uniform and badge to go business casual and work in IT – and he’s not looking back.

“It all kind of fell through the floor,” he told Fox News Digital. “Every year, it was like, it can’t get any worse than this. And then it just did.”

He voiced similar concerns about progressive oversight agencies, which he said had no understanding of how policing works. 

“Their power grew over time, it was almost like they were your boss,” he told Fox News Digital. 

Retention problems also took a heavy toll on officers who remained on the job after their colleagues left for greener pastures, he said.

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“The lack of manpower over the years … slowly but surely, a lot of people were starting to leave,” he said. “There were less people to work with, and that’s an increase in workload for you, an increase in liability. That was a huge concern.”

When he started in a busy Brooklyn precinct, he said, there were 12 cars on patrol. Two years later, there were just four.

Officers could often work 16-hour days, spend hours commuting home and then be expected to report back after barely five hours at home with their families, he said.

“It just wasn’t worth it,” he said.

It was especially rough, he said, when experienced officers he looked up to started leaving.

“I was like, ‘Oh my God, where did everybody go?’” he said. “Everybody saw the writing on the wall, and I think it was time that I started seeing what everybody else was seeing.”

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Marino, a first-generation officer, retired after just five years and said he would discourage his own children and anyone else’s children from joining the force under the current climate.

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Working in IT is much less stressful, he said. 

“You still see on a national level how police officers are dragged through the mud for situations where people don’t agree with your actions, even though they have no knowledge or have never experienced situations of their own like that,” he said. “I had the chance to get out of law enforcement and I took it.”

Current and former members of law enforcement from around the country have complained of progressive policies that allow repeat offenders to get out of custody on low or no bail and commit their next crime. 

Since nationwide anti-police riots erupted across the country in 2020 after Floyd’s death, morale, recruitment and retention in departments have plummeted, experts say.

“From our boots-on-the-ground cops, we’re seeing kind of a resignation to the new normal,” said Betsy Brantner Smith, who spent almost 30 years on the job and is now a spokesperson for the National Police Association. “I talked to some recruiters in the Midwest recently, and they just accepted that the days of 500 to 1,000 applications for four to five jobs, those days are gone.”

Some departments in small towns and suburbs, especially in parts of the South and the West, are finding success in attracting good candidates, she said, but staffing shortages are plaguing much of the country.

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“Cops are learning to do more with less, but who actually gets ripped off are the citizens.” she said. 

Pension changes over the years have also made it easier for officers to leave their departments without completely disrupting their retirement plans, she said.

“My pension was very much tied to my police department,” she said. “I couldn’t have left. Now they’ve changed the pension system in so many areas that you can pick up your pension and go. It’s just like your 401K.”

That frees officers to pack up and move around the country in search of a better quality of life, better school systems or better pay, she said.

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Another problem, especially for large cities like New York and Chicago, is that families that have spent generations seeking jobs in the same departments are no longer encouraging their children to continue the legacy.

“My dad was NYPD. My grandpa was NYPD, and those legacy cops are bailing out,” she said. “We’re not having the legacies themselves encourage their kids to come to those agencies. So now what are we doing? Now we’re gonna have DACA recipients.”

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Several cities, including Seattle and Los Angeles, have encouraged DACA recipients – whose immigration status is not clear and who may not even legally be allowed to own firearms on U.S. soil – to apply as they struggle to fill their depleted ranks.

“Wait until a DACA recipient uses force on an American,” Brantner Smith said. “There’s a certain naïveté to this whole situation.”

As a whole, the quality of applicants decreases as fewer people take an interest in joining law enforcement, she said.

“With a recruiting crisis and a retention crisis always comes lowered standards, and the public needs to know about that and understand it,” he warned. “Better officers are better educated, more professional, [and require] more training. . . . We’re gonna lower our standards, so we have warm bodies in patrol cars. That should be concerning to every American.”

Some changes have been minor – like more lenient rules regarding visible tattoos or facial hair. But others are more concerning for experts, including lowered education requirements.

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Another problem in some areas is departments with deep pockets trying to lure good officers away from their current jobs, she said.

“You go to Chicago, and you’ll see billboards for Dallas PD, LAPD,” she said. Some police departments in the San Francisco Bay Area are offering hiring bonuses between $5,000 and $15,000, she added.

While some big city departments pay high salaries, the average hourly wage for police and sheriff’s officers increased by less than $2 between 2019 and 2022, according to the most recent available data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic and 2020’s summer of anti-police rioting, officers made an average of $33.04 an hour across the country. By 2022, that had climbed to $34.79, an increase of 5.2% that was below inflation.

“That goes back to the morale and retention,” she said.

On the upside, The Associated Press reported earlier this year that police hiring ticked upward in 2023 for the first time in five years, citing a survey from PERF, a nonprofit policing think tank based in Washington, D.C.

Those gains came mainly in small- and medium-sized departments. Big cities were still below staffing levels they maintained prior to the 2020 riots.

Early resignations also declined, although they remained above 2020 levels as well. 

Fox News’ Peter Petroff and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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