BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana GOP Gov. Jeff Landry has declared a state of emergency due to a police officer shortage.

Landry’s executive order issued Thursday lifts limits on how many new employees Louisiana sheriffs can hire and on payroll increases for their departments.

Landry, who previously had a career in law enforcement, said that police departments in the state are experiencing record-low employments “resulting in increased crime and less public safety.” As of July, sheriff’s offices statewide were down 1,800 deputies, Landry said.

“We applaud Governor Landry for highlighting the importance of the law enforcement profession and our state’s desperate need to fill valuable front line deputy positions,” Michael Ranatza, executive director of Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association, said in a written statement Friday.

Landry’s order removes restrictions that state law places on hiring and payroll for a period of time following a gubernatorial election. Landry was elected last year and took office in January.

Agencies around the U.S. have experienced police shortages in recent years that many in law enforcement blame on a morale hit stemming from the coronavirus pandemic and criticism of police that boiled over with the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Small towns, including in Maine, Texas and Ohio, have disbanded their police departments, turning over law enforcement work to county sheriffs, a neighboring town or state police.

Officer resignations were up 47% in 2022, compared with 2019,the year before the pandemic and Floyd’s murder, according to a survey of nearly 200 police agencies by the Police Executive Research Forum, a Washington, DC.-based think tank. Retirements are up 19%.

Landry’s order is in effect until March 15. Lawmakers return to the state Capitol Monday for a special legislative session to address crime.

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By SARA CLINE Associated Press