Thu, Feb 28, 2019 - Page 7 News List

FBI struggling to attract new recruits, report says

ECONOMICS, NOT POLITICS:A ‘Wall Street Journal’ report said that the number of applicants continued to fall last year to 11,500 from a peak of 68,500 in 2009

The Guardian

The FBI is having trouble recruiting new agents, the Wall Street Journal reported this week.

A sharp decline in the number of applicants for special agent positions, long considered among the most prestigious in US law enforcement, continued last year, from a peak of 68,500 in 2009 to 11,500 last year, the report said.

“We had a lot of discussion internally about why the number of special agent applicants were fluctuating so much over the years. We were trying to figure out what’s the story,” said Peter Sursi, the man in charge of recruitment for the FBI.

According to the FBI, the number of already employed special agents has also dropped somewhat over the past few years, from 14,050 in 2014 to 13,906 in 2017.

At first blush it might seem that a certain polarizing political figure disparaging the honor and the trustworthiness of the FBI on TV and on Twitter every day might play a role in lowered enthusiasm.

From special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into US President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia, which Trump has frequently called a witch hunt, to his spats with former FBI acting director Andrew McCabe and others, scarcely a week goes by without his impugning the law enforcement agency.

It does seem that under the Trump administration, positive impressions of the FBI, at least among Republicans have dropped.

A Pew survey found that while overall support of the FBI has remained positive at 65 percent, since 2017, “the share of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents with a positive view of the bureau has fallen 16 percentage points, from 65 percent to 49 percent.”

Similarly, a Gallup poll found that the percentage of Republicans saying the FBI did an “excellent” or “good” job dropped from 62 percent in 2014 to 49 percent in 2017.

However, the decrease in applications began long before Trump was president, said the FBI, which thinks the problem is economics, not politics.

“Our recruiters never had to actively encourage special agent applicants to apply before,” Sursi told the Journal. “But the labor market is tight for most employers these days, with more jobs than qualified workers. We have to adjust our strategies to be a competitive option.”

Among the bureau’s efforts has been a sustained social media campaign under the hashtag #UnexpectedAgent.

A scroll through the hashtag on Twitter will find FBI departments hoping to open people’s eyes to the possibility of employment with the bureau, particularly women and minorities, who have long been underrepresented.

White men currently account for 67 percent of special agents.

The FBI is not alone in this.

The US Army, Navy and other military branches have seen recruitment shortages, according to the New York Times and the Army Times.

Police forces across the nation have also had trouble recruiting. The total number of full-time sworn officers has dropped 23,000 since 2013 to about 700,000, said a National Public Radio report, which called the officer shortage “a quiet crisis in American policing.”

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