Attacks on police create staffing problems in Colorado

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DENVER -- Recent attacks on law enforcement officers across the country are taking a toll on Colorado police departments.

Resignations are up and hirings are down.

Cmdr. Fletcher Howard retired from the Colorado Springs Police Department last year after 38 years with the force. While he didn’t retire because of recent violence, he said it is having a big impact.

On Nov. 27, a gunman attacked a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. One officer was killed and five others were injured.

“There have been several people that have said this is enough, and that particular incident changed their lives to the point they quit or they’re thinking about quitting soon,” Howard said.

Fifty-two officers resigned from the Colorado Springs Police Department in 2015. Several cited the attacks on police as a reason for their departures.

Howard said the job of a police officer is much different than when he began his career. He said suspects now carry M-16’s and wear body armor. Many even have military training.

“A lot of them have joined the military for one reason only and that is to get themselves prepared for certain types of tactics so when they get out of the military they can come back to their communities and have gang warfare,” he said.

New applicants are also difficult to find in many Colorado communities.

“The hiring pool, the applicant pool, is definitely shrinking,” said Mike Violette, the executive director of the Colorado Fraternal Order of Police.

Violette said some rural communities are having an especially difficult time finding qualified candidates. In some cases they're forced to hire applicants who wouldn’t have gotten the job 10 or even five years ago.

“They’re really struggling to hire officers because they’re competing with the metro area,” Violette said.

It’s also a problem many in law enforcement fear will only grow worse, as violence that was once rare now becomes frighteningly common.

“I foresee a lot more officers leaving this line of work especially when in the last two, three weeks, how many shootings have we had?  And this is not the end of it,” Howard said.