Law And Order Reboot: West Coast Police Officers Abruptly Shift To THIS Red State, And They Are NOT Looking Back...

By Javier Sanchez | Friday, 24 May 2024 01:00 AM
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Image Credit : Photo by Getty Images

Seth Horst, a former California Highway Patrol officer, once hesitated to reveal his profession to strangers.

In 2020, being a police officer, particularly in California, felt like a stigma. However, a year later, Horst found himself in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, with his family, witnessing the city's Independence Day celebration, where the community's support for law enforcement was palpable.

Horst recalled the Kootenai County sheriff waving at residents from the back of a pickup truck, a revolver snug against his hip. The blue line flag, a symbol of support for law enforcement, is a common sight in the city, displayed on cars, homes, and businesses throughout the year. Horst noted that it's not uncommon for residents to offer to buy coffee for police officers they encounter on the streets.

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"That is so powerful for the men and women in uniform up here to have that backing," said Horst, who has since left the California Highway Patrol and started a real estate business in North Idaho. "It's a pretty phenomenal place to do the job."

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Idaho, also known as the Gem State, has become a favored relocation destination for both retired and active-duty police officers. Horst and Bryan Lovell, the President of the Idaho Fraternal Order of Police, attribute this trend to a more positive climate towards law enforcement.

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"They come to Idaho where they can enjoy their career and make a difference," Lovell told Fox News Digital. "They see that, in large part, our communities are supportive of law enforcement and public safety."

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In the aftermath of the anti-police protests in 2020, cities across the country, both large and small, experienced severe staffing shortages in their police departments. Four years later, some departments are still struggling to fill their ranks.

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Seattle’s police staffing is at its lowest level since the 1990s, according to a March KING 5 report. Earlier this year in California, the Alameda Police Department offered a $75,000 signing bonus — the highest in the nation — on top of a six-figure starting salary to try to entice new officers.

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While Lovell acknowledged that Idaho has not been immune to these recruiting challenges, the state also saw a surge in police applications from out-of-state around the same time other departments began losing officers.

Data from the Idaho Peace Officer Standards & Training (POST) reveals that the number of officers from other states applying for certification in Idaho more than doubled from 2019 to 2021. Although the annual applications have since decreased, they remain above pre-2020 levels.

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Lovell shared that he has received calls from officers from other states seeking employment. Many of these officers expressed frustration with local policies that defunded police departments or decriminalized drugs.

"The district attorney doesn't back them, there's too much liability, so the department won't let them enforce the law, which is their job," Horst said. "And that bugs a lot of people."

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Despite often taking a significant pay cut to work in Idaho, many officers find it worthwhile to raise their families in a place that is safe and upholds traditional values, according to Horst.

An officer joining the Coeur d’Alene Police Department could expect to earn between $63,000 and $89,000 per year before overtime, according to a recent job posting. The range is larger for the Idaho State Patrol, starting at about $48,000 per year but going up to nearly $103,000.

However, the most significant influx of law enforcement personnel in Idaho comes from retirees, according to Lovell and Horst.

Retired police officers from Los Angeles, San Diego, and other cities in California regularly gather for coffee, said Horst, who keeps in touch with several retiree groups. Around 40 former Seattle officers also reside in the area. This aligns with the fact that California, Washington, and Oregon are the three states fueling Idaho's rapid population growth.

The Los Angeles Times reported last December that California public employees were leaving the state in large numbers and taking their pensions with them.

The Boise suburb of Eagle received more CalPERS money in 2022 than any other ZIP code outside of California, according to the Times' analysis.

"I'm sure the state of California funds a lot of the stuff in North Idaho," Horst said.

However, the high concentration of former first responders offers more than just financial benefits. It provides a sense of community for people like Horst, who moved to the area without established social circles.

"To have that immediate bond where they can go and just feel safe, talk with somebody, share stories, that kind of resource is huge," he said. "And I think that's a big draw for men and women that come from this world."

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