YELLOW SPRINGS, Ohio – Police officer John Grote gave up his daytime desk job for the overnight shift. He gets called in on his days off and often has to respond to calls alone when it would be better to have backup.
Like hundreds of officers across the country, Grote's life changed nearly a year and a half ago when one of this western Ohio village's eight police officers was called to military duty.
Grote's family also has had to adjust, especially his 7-year-old daughter.
"She knows that Dad comes home at 6 o'clock in the morning and gets her off to school," Grote said. "My family understands that. I'm absolutely not complaining."
The call-up of military reservists for duty in Afghanistan, for homeland security and to prepare for a possible war against Iraq has strained police and sheriff departments nationwide.
The Washington D.C.-based Police Executive Research Forum says 44 percent of 976 law enforcement agencies it surveyed between September and November reported losing personnel to reservist duty.
"It's not a problem that has a really easy answer," said Jim Pasco, executive director of the National Fraternal Order of Police.
To make up for missing officers, sheriffs and police chiefs have been forced to pay more overtime, transfer officers to ensure essential services are covered, borrow officers from other agencies, and speed up plans to put volunteers on the streets.
The 44-officer police department in Martinsburg, W.Va., lost four officers to military duty in 2001, prompting two Navy recruiters to patrol the streets as volunteers.
"It was 10 percent of the department," said Chief Ted Anderson. "I had to work the other guys longer. It set us back."
In a few weeks, volunteers in Fargo, N.D., will begin keeping records, calling crime victims to update them on cases and enforcing handicapped-parking violations. Retired bankers, teachers and businessmen are among the approximately 60 people who have signed up.
The 67-officer police department in Smyrna, Tenn., has lost three officers to military duty since December and will soon lose a fourth.
"When you talk about four people, that's half a shift," Chief Mike Beach said. He said he expects overtime to increase and officers to give up vacation time.
Beach said it's difficult to hire new officers because he must keep slots open for the departed officers. In addition, the city has agreed to make up the difference in the police and military salaries of those activated, reducing funds available to hire new officers.
In Ohio, a total of about 4,000 reservists and guardsmen have been called to active duty. It's not known how many of those in Ohio or the nation are police officers.
Two officers in the 28-person Goffstown, N.H., police department have been on military duty since the week of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It has meant juggling schedules and budgets and getting more money for overtime.
"There's only so much overtime you can work before you need a break," said police Chief Mike French.
The 640-person Wichita, Kan., police department also has had to resort to overtime to cover for the eight officers called up beginning in October 2001. The department fears more will be called to duty.
"We're all kind of holding our breath," said Janet Johnson, assistant to the chief.
In Seekonk, Mass., police Chief Vito Scotti wrote to Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge asking for federal grants to hire more officers. Four of the department's 33 officers are away on military duty.
"It's created a severe hardship on our department," said Scotti, who hasn't received an answer yet. "I can think of no greater need for the federal government to address. Homefront security starts here."
Some police departments have had to scramble because they lost officers with specialized training.
One of four Youngstown police officers called to military duty is a sniper on the SWAT team. Lt. Robin Lees, who runs the team, said he has had to borrow a sniper from the sheriff's department a few times.
"It's not like I've got a lot of people to do that," Lees said.