Gaps in the Long Blue Line

Article excerpt

One of the Clinton administration's minor victories in this year's budget battle was money to hire 50,000 more police officers around the country. This is part of the community policing initiative first signed into law in 1994.

This year's added funding is supposed to boost police hiring toward the goal of 100,000 new officers, as envisioned six year ago.

But the vision is behind schedule. All those new cops, walking beats and getting to know local people, were intended to be on the job by the end of next year. The best the administration can claim now is that, at least, the money will be in hand by next year. The officers themselves may take a few years more.

What's going on here is considerably more than budgetary or bureaucratic foot-dragging in Washington. The story behind the story is that police departments around the country are having a difficult time recruiting new officers.

Why? Start with today's ever-booming economy, which gives young people many more work or career options. If that sounds familiar, you're right. The same problem confronts the teaching profession and, most acutely, the armed forces.

There is also the issue of a poor fit between freedom-loving '90s youth and a career that demands strict discipline and deference to authority. …