As crime explodes, Philadelphia Police Department on track to be down 1,000 officers from its total prior to 2020

PHILADELPHIA, PA - According to a CBS News exclusive investigation, the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) is short nearly 1,000 officers during a time when crime rates are just starting to decline. 

Back in 2008, PPD had more than 6,800 personnel on the books and right now the department is trying hard to reverse the trend of departures that hit an all-time high after 2020. Data shows that the number of officers has steadily declined between 2008 and 2020, but that the rate of departures really picked up after 2020.

Reportedly, the department has what it calls its "authorized strength threshold," which is the number of officers it has within its budget to hire and that number is 6,380. As 2023 comes to an end, the department will be down 1,000 officers, putting the number of personnel at 5,400.

Kimberly McGlonn, who has owned a storefront in the Mantua section of West Philadelphia since February 2020, said, "We need more police officers. We need more folks who are able to support us, and taking care of people who are in crisis, and making sure there is a sense of public safety."

She said that in the last three months she has call 911 four times for people who came into her store "in crisis." In response to the number of officers with the PPD, McGlonn said, "On the surface, that number is staggering, but when I think about how challenging it is to be a police officer now when I think about how they feel unsupported, I am imagining recruitment is a serious challenge and that retention is more challenging. In that way, I'm not surprised."

PPD is actively recruiting officers to join their ranks, but sources said that even with thousands of applications, less than 2% actually make it through the process and become sworn police officers. The department is struggling to replace officers as fast as they are leaving.

CBS News Philadelphia was unable to get an interview with Interim Police Commissioner John Stanford, but they were able to join a news conference about police recruitment. At the news conference, the department announced a $3 million "The City Needs You" campaign.

During that news conference, Stanford said, "So, I think it's very clear, our city needs you. We need as many people as possible to sign off to become Philadelphia police officers." He said that although the department is struggle to recruit and retain officers, there has been a decline in crime during 2023.

He said, "Robberies are down, carjackings are down 43%, 40% and that's at our numbers of officers also down." When asked if the department was doing more with less, he said, "We are doing more with less, but it's also a testament to the work being done that's not always recognized."

In addition to recruiting new officers, hundreds of the department's current officers are expected to retire sooner rather than later. In the next two years, some 600 officers will retire with 121 of them on one single day in January of 2025.

When asked about its findings, CBS News said that Mayor-elect Cherelle Parker appeared visibly frustrated with the declining numbers of police officers. However, she said that she thinks the announcement of a permanent police commissioner will attract more interest. 

She said, "When he or she begins to unveil the public safety plan and crime reduction plan for the city of Philadelphia, I think you'll see more people express an interest in wanting to work in our department."
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