Chuck Wexler talks to police chiefs frequently, as head of the Police Executive Research Forum think tank in Washington. Recently, he asked a roomful of chiefs to raise their hands if they wanted their children to follow them into a law enforcement career. Not one hand went up, he said.

Nationwide, interest in becoming a police officer is down significantly. In Nashville, job applications dropped from 4,700 in 2010 to 1,900 last year. In Seattle, applications have declined by nearly 50 percent in a department where the starting salary is $79,000. Even the FBI had a sharp drop, from 21,000 applications per year to 13,000 last year, before a new marketing campaign brought an upswing. Read More