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Ferguson Effect: Lack of support, civil unrest pushing more police in Alabama to leave law enforcement entirely

Mobile (AL) Law Enforcement Memorial Service. Credit: Mobile PD.
Mobile (AL) Law Enforcement Memorial Service. Credit: Mobile PD.

Police chiefs all over the state of Alabama are finding it extremely challenging these days to hire new recruits and to retain their officers.

While the Ferguson effect is certainly a factor in all of this, they say, another racially-charged incident closer to home –the June shooting of a Mobile teen — also seems to have made it more challenging for local agencies to hire new officers.

In addition, officials in both Birmingham and Mobile say they have to do their hiring through a county personnel board so sometimes they have to wait up to a year before they can officially put an applicant on the force.

But overall, most chiefs of police report that there is a new trend they’re seeing of people wanting to leave law enforcement entirely.

The job is just becoming ‘less attractive’ to people because of the heightened public criticism, the civil unrest and the lack of support from communities and politicians.

“The message is you can do everything right…and still be cast out of your career,” said Mobile Police Chief, James Barber. “We can’t have some elected leaders condemning an action they know nothing about,” he said.

Barber also says in the aftermath of Ferguson there’s been this feeling among officers that “they’re sticking their necks out for people who won’t support them.”

Last year, in Mobile, they had 227 applicants for the Police Academy with 179 moving on to take the written exam. This year, there were 183 applicants with only 69 who took the first test, AL.com reported.

In Tuscaloosa, Chief Steven Anderson says they are also facing personnel and hiring challenges. He says, “Social media fuels such a rush to judgment in controversial police encounters…We’ve got to understand there’s a limited amount of transparency you can provide when you’re conducting an investigation.”

Anderson is Tuscaloosa’s first black chief. He says, “The baseline challenge for us … is finding qualified applicants in the minority community and among women.”


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