Missouri U.S. Representative Roy Blunt takes to the Senate floor this past week to address the nationwide issue of staff shortages within law enforcement including here in the lake area.
Blunt says the situation is unfortunate but, at the same time, predictable…“Officers have been demoralized by the de-fund the police crusade, they’ve been discourage by prosecutors who put dangerous people back on the street or even put out a list of crimes that people will not be prosecuted for.”
Blunt goes on to say, while further protections need to be in place for LEO, those same officers need to be held to a standard of zero tolerance on and off the job…“Taking the oath to support and defend, then somehow not conducting yourself in the right way….if you cross that line, you should be held accountable.”
Blunt serves as Co-Chair of the Senate Law Enforcement Caucus.
WASHINGTON – Yesterday, U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.), Co-Chair of the Senate Law Enforcement Caucus, spoke on the Senate floor to discuss the national staffing shortage of police officers. In his remarks, Blunt praised law enforcement for the difficult, dangerous, and demanding work they do to keep communities safe and criticized Democrats’ calls to “defund the police.”
Following Are Blunt’s Remarks:
“Madam President, there are really few jobs in the country as difficult, as dangerous, as demanding as the sacrifice of being a law enforcement officer.
“I’d suggest the one job that may possibly be harder—and, certainly in my view, is as hard—is to be the family member of a law enforcement officer wondering, all during that working shift, what might be happening to the person you care so much about.
“You know, the challenges to these officers and their families, the challenges they face today are intensified as local departments struggle with the staffing shortages caused by record-high departures and difficulty filling the open positions they’ve got.
“The Eastern Missouri Police Academy had around half as many recruits join in 2021 as they had in 2020. In my hometown of Springfield, Missouri, they have 40 vacancies right now they’re trying to fill on the department. In January, the Columbia, Missouri Police Department had around 20 vacancies in a force that, at its maximum size, would be 187 or so people.
“According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in September, officer departures in St. Louis City and St. Louis County spiked in 2021 and were at a pace to be up to 60% higher in each of those departments than they had been in the average year. In the police force here, I was with Chief Manger yesterday, and he pointed out that retirements and resignations were 50% higher than they’ve been in recent years in 2021.
“The new chief of police at the St. Louis County police force said, ‘my biggest priority is hiring and finding people who will do these jobs.’
“These staff shortages are unfortunate. But they’re in so many ways predictable of a movement that villainizes law enforcement for, I think, political gain in many cases. Officers have been demoralized by the ‘defund the police’ crusade. They’ve been discouraged by prosecutors who put dangerous criminals back on the street or even put out a list of crimes that people will not be prosecuted for.
“That’s well beyond the standard of belief that most people would have had actually until they heard it, my guess would be. And that, ‘no, these are crimes that we are just not going to prosecute people for.’
“They saw themselves, police saw themselves, in many cases, forced out of the force because of a vaccine mandate they didn’t agree with, often going to smaller forces that had less than 100 people. All this is happening really against a backdrop of a crime wave that’s harming communities of all sizes, all across the country.
“When I talk to police chiefs, I hear concerns that a lot of good candidates are deciding maybe law enforcement won’t be the career that they want to have. When I talk to the sworn officers that I see here every day and I see at home, I hear many of them feel they just simply have a job where they face danger, but they don’t get enough support that they need to do the job that they need to do.
“Police work has always been dangerous. We’ve always lost officers. They’ve always been courageous in their willingness to stand up. But last year was the deadliest year ever for law enforcement officers.  officers died in the line of duty in 2021, 120 of them from gunshot wounds or fatalities from traffic.
“You don’t have to travel very far away from here, just down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial to understand what it means to lose officers and what it means to lose them in protection of the country.
“The marble walls there bear the names of thousands of officers who’ve been killed in the line of duty. Each corner of that memorial shows a lion protecting its cubs. We’ve always seen law enforcement as our protectors, not as those we should somehow fear. It eats away at our society to say that we appreciate law enforcement, but we really don’t want to do what is necessary to support law enforcement.
“There’s no data that says, I think there’s no data that says, one or more tweets that say ‘defund the police’ leads to two crimes or two muggings. But it simply makes common sense that when police departments are understaffed and under-trained it increases the risk of violent crime on the officers themselves and the communities they serve.
“As the Co-Chair of the Senate Law Enforcement Caucus, one of my priorities has been to ensure that law enforcement officers have the support and resources they need to do the job they’re asked to do and do it as safely and effectively as they possibly can.
“We certainly all can and I think would agree, I certainly would, that there really should be zero tolerance for police misconduct. Taking the oath to support and defend and then somehow not conducting yourself in the right way. If you cross that line, you ought to be held accountable.
“We need to view people on the line as people who are there to defend us, to serve us. We need to make this a profession that people want to be part of, and if they’re willing to be part of it, we have provided them everything they need to be safely doing the hard work that they’re asked to do. And I would yield back.”