Recruitment & Retention member survey 

By Ed Wojcicki, Executive Director 

From the Spring 2022 Command Magazine (MEMBERS ONLY)

Posted April 19, 2022

We asked you about recruitment and retention. Results back up what we’ve been saying anecdotally

The results of our Recruitment and Retention Survey support with data what we have been saying: It is rather suddenly much harder to retain and recruit officers in our police agencies. We have been saying that, and legislators and the media have been asking us: Do you have the data on that? Now we have both quantitative and qualitative data.

We put a survey together in February and sent it to all of our members, and the Illinois Sheriffs’ Association also sent it to all 102 sheriff’s offices. The Chicago Police Department did not respond and so its challenges are not reflected in our survey results.


  • 239 agencies responded
  • 184 municipal agencies
  • 36 sheriff’s departments
  • 19 other agencies, including many college and university agencies


Resignations and retirements increased by 29 percent in 2021 from the year before, in 2020

  • Breaking that down, resignations from responding agencies increased by 65 percent in 2021 from the year before, in 2020.
  • Retirements from responding agencies increased by 7 percent in 2021 from the year before.
  • Agencies reported an anticipated 846 retirements and resignations in 2022, a figure that will continue the trend from the past couple of years


  • 60 percent of reporting agencies said they are not fully staffed
  • Nearly 2 in 10 agencies (19 percent) have a current shortage of more than 10 percent of what they are authorized to have
  • Three agencies reported a 50 percent shortage, and two of those have only two officers to begin with.
  • One department reported all three of its sworn officers resigned in 2021.
  • Only 40 percent of responding agencies said they have no current shortage – that their current staffing level is equal to their authorized staffing level. 


  • Responding agencies reported hiring 895 officers in 2020 and 2021 combined.
  • Of those, 452 – or a stunning 49.4 percent – were lateral hires, which means that half of the officers hired were already fully trained and working for a different agency.
  • Of agencies who reported giving an entrance exam in 2021, nearly all said they are having significant reductions in the quality and quantity of candidates. 
  • Many reported that the number of people taking the exam in 2021 was down by 40 to 70 percent from just two or three years ago; for some, the numbers are worse.
  • Making matters worse is that many agencies reported a significant number of applicants who sign up for the exam do not show up to take it. 
  • A small number of agencies report having more people taking the exam in 2021, but those actual numbers are usually small, such as going from two to four exam takers or 150 to 170. 


Here are a few of the comments about changes in applicants from five to seven years ago, since 2015 (the year after Ferguson):

  • Fewer than 20% passed the background phase.
  • The quality is much poorer.
  • One agency removed its bachelor’s degree requirement in 2021 and received more applications, but only 38 percent of applicants were selected to actually take the exam.
  • One agency ended residency requirements and saw an increase in applicants.
  • Our washout rate has flipped. We have gone from 20-25% background failure to 70-75% failure (criminal histories; significant application dishonesty).
  • One agency typically had 100 applicants 20 years ago; it had only 15 at its test in 2021. Of those, only four passed, but two failed either the psych exam or background check. 
  • One agency reported smaller number of applicants but better qualified applicants.


  • “Significantly decreasing. It is a crisis!”
  • We are currently attempting to renew our two-year hire list. After nine weeks, we have received one application.
  • The more college graduates that apply, the less likely they are to want to work nights and weekends.
  • I am starting a lateral eligibility list due to no openings for police academies in the area.
  • “We can only steal from each other for so long.”


We encourage you to share this information, especially with the media, legislators and community leaders throughout the state. Law enforcement leaders need support and resources in order to change this data and the trends in recruiting being experienced across the profession. It is our hope that this data is the first step in making this a priority to communities and lawmakers. 


Given the obvious challenges in recruiting and retaining officers within our state, it is critical that agencies develop a comprehensive strategy to highlight their department and attract qualified candidates. Over the next few months, we plan to highlight what departments across the state are doing, starting with two standouts below. 

Collinsville Police Department

Chief Steve Evans and Assistant Chief Brett Boerm have put together a comprehensive approach to recruitment. Their in-house team has created a series of videos highlighting the benefits of joining the department.

The CPD’s messaging covers the community, state-of-the-art training and facilities, career opportunities and the benefits package to appeal to potential recruits.

In February 2022, the department initiated an Accelerated Entry hiring process. Learn more about their recruitment efforts by visiting and clicking on the recruitment tab.


 Oswego Police Department


Chief Jeff Burgner has led a complete overhaul of the recruitment process in recent years. The OPD has a stunning website devoted completely to its recruitment efforts. The site featuring a professional-quality recruitment video that truly gives you a sense of what it is like to serve this tight-knit community.

Plus, their materials showcase their new facilities and the level of investment that goes into new officers through training and opportunities for growth. To see their recruitment materials, visit


Several more of our member organizations have analyzed their own efforts to recruit qualified officers, and we hope to showcase their efforts in the coming months.