WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — Police departments nationwide are seeing officers resign or retire at an alarming rate for various reasons, with one of the most common being low morale.

That shortage is felt right here at home.

“We’re still looking at being short for a little while until we can catch up,” Wichita Falls Police Sgt. Charlie Eipper said.

According to a recent study, there’s been a 5% decrease in the hiring rate from 2019-2020 to the same period of 2020-2021.

That may not seem like much, but when you combine that with an 18% increase in resignations and a 45% increase in retirements, it’s causing severe shortages of officers.

“It’s a combination of things,” Eipper said. “The recruiting has really dropped over the years. Back when I got on, there were hundreds, over 400 people who showed up to attempt to get on the police department. We can barely get 100 to show up and test now.”

Two of the major reasons for the decline in interest in a law enforcement career nationwide are low morale and increasing criticism and scrutiny of police by the public and elected officials. But Eipper said they aren’t experiencing that here.

“I don’t think our folks are leaving because of morale problems,” Eipper said. “Like I said, we are supported so well here in this city, and I think that we’ve got the greatest community in the nation when it comes to that topic of supporting the police.”

While the WFPD isn’t seeing an increase in resignations, they are experiencing an increase in retirements.

But Eipper believes that is largely because many officers kept working past their retirement eligibility dates.

“Usually, they’re way past the time they could retire, which is 25 years for us, and several have been over 30 years that they are just ready to go do something different,” Eipper said.

Despite the negatives that come with the job, Eipper said law enforcement is a rewarding career.

Combine that with a great community, and he hopes more and more people will put on that badge to protect and serve the people of Wichita Falls.

The number of retirements and resignations doubled this year compared to 2019. In 2019 there were 9, in 2020 there were 8, in 2021 there were 10 and this year there were 18. Now, Eipper said most of those are retirements as they’ve seen very few resignations.