WASHINGTON, D.C. – Law enforcement officers are leaving their jobs “at a rate we’ve never seen before,” with some departments seeing decreases by as many as hundreds of members compared to the same time last year, a handful of the nation’s top police officials said. 

National Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) President Patrick Yoes sounded the alarm during the third annual Faith & Blue conference in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, when he told about 100 law enforcement officials, community leaders and reporters: “I want to signal a crisis.” 

“We see law enforcement officers leave our profession at a rate we’ve never seen before,” Yoes told the crowd. “Our profession is dependent on the best and brightest stepping up and taking this job. And because of the actions, and because of the turmoil that has happened in the last two years, we have a crisis right now in manpower.”

Top representatives from 19 local, state and federal police agencies – including Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security – convened Tuesday to announce plans for the 2022 National Faith & Blue Weekend, which is scheduled for October 7 through October 10. The event encourages conversation and communication between faith groups, law enforcement agencies and the communities, and has garnered support from some of the biggest names in law enforcement in doing so. 

When asked about retention and recruitment on Tuesday, Rev. Markel Hutchins, the event’s lead organizer and MovementForward CEO, said law enforcement agencies “will not be able to recruit or retain or attract new talent if police officers continue to have to work under the circumstances and situations that they’re working under now.

“The stresses and the anxiety that’s caused by the tensions that we’ve seen have driven the law enforcement professionals away,” he went on. “There is no way to reduce crime and there is no way to attract new talent in law enforcement if we don’t change the discussion and shift the narrative again away from the points of conversation that divide us.”

More than 210 police and law enforcement officers have been shot in the line of duty so far this year as of July 31 – up 14% from the same time last year, according to data provided by the FOP earlier this month. 

Deaths of officers in the line of duty jumped by 55% from 2020 to 2021, with the majority succumbing to COVID-19-related illness, according to statistics from the National Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial Fund. And data released last week by the Major Cites Chiefs Association shows homicides in big cities have surged by 50% since 2019.

“Unfortunately, we find ourselves in a very difficult time in American history in the last two years. America’s law enforcement has been demonized by many. It has created a rift within this country and eroded the very trust of the institution and the profession of law enforcement,” Yoes added during his address to the crowd. “And we’re paying for it. We’re paying for it in our communities with higher crime. And we’re also paying for it in law enforcement officers.”

Chief Robert Contee of Washington, D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), estimated to Fox News Digital on Tuesday that his office employed 300 fewer officers than when he started his post in 2021. 

“That is significant for our police department,” Contee said. 

An MPD spokesperson said the department was authorized for a police force of 4,000 sworn members for fiscal years 2022 and 2023. As of Tuesday, the department employed 3,472 sworn members. As of Jan. 1, 2022, there were 3,535 uniformed MDP personnel on staff. MPD employed 3,569 sworn members as of Jan. 1, 2021, the spokesperson said. 

Contee, who also spoke as a member of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, said the need for more staffing and retention of personnel has “a huge impact.”

“With respect to police officers who are out there working every day when they are overworked because we don’t have adequate staffing, that impacts judgement, that impacts police officer community interactions and it impacts a lot of things,” Contee went on. 

Earlier this week, the New York Post reported that 2,465 New York Police Department officers have submitted their papers to leave the agency so far in 2022, including 71% who did so before becoming eligible for their full pensions. The 2022 figure is a 42% jump from the 1,731 officers who left the job at the same time in 2021, the report states

Steven Casstevens, president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, said there was “no one reason why our profession is struggling with recruitment and retention right now.” 

“Probably 35 years ago in one of my former agencies when we advertised for law enforcement open position, we’d get eight 800 to 1000 applicants. Today we have 50,” said Casstevens, who also serves as the chief of Buffalo Grove Police Department in Illinois. Now, that didn’t happen overnight. There are a lot of reasons.”

Sheriff Dennis Lemma, president of the Major County Sheriffs of America, called the issue “probably one of the most significant challenges that we have right now.”

“As fundamental as you can put it, people are attracted to this business because they have a heart to serve, and they want love and appreciation from the recipients of that service,” said Lemma. “And when there is a false narrative out there – in many regards, a radical narrative that wants to defund the police, or allowed cities across the country to engage in total lawlessness – your good, quality police officers will find a different way to serve. They’ll go to the military. They’ll serve in the church. They’ll serve in the fire department. They will find another calling.”

That said, he added that the “strongest advocates” of defunding police and law enforcement are now changing their position, because they’ve seen the violent crime rise in major cities across America.”

“I went into a large group of sheriffs across the country and I asked … ‘By a show of hands, how many of you are encouraging your sons, daughters, grandchildren to get in this business?’ And there was not enough hands raised in the room,” Lemma went on. “We can do better, and I think efforts like this start to move us down that path.”