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Illinois Law Enforcement faces recruitment issues

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Illinois is amid a law enforcement shortage. Officials say it is not just an issue in the Land of Lincoln, but nationwide.

Illinois police officers are looking to recruit as many officers as they can since many departments are seeing a decline in officers.

“With that said, a lot of those people are getting older and they are retiring. It’s their time to leave the force,” said Kenny Winslow, executive director of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police.

Law enforcement recruitment in Illinois has gotten harder while officers are still leaving. A survey given to members of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police in February of 2022 showed that recruitment and retention was the biggest challenge for departments statewide.

From 2020 to 2021, the average amount of resignations went up by 65%, and the retirement rate was up 7% from the normal average per year, which is why some departments are forced to hire officers from other counties.

"Both of the hires that are occurring are lateral officers and that means that one department steals from the other department,” Winslow said. "They're looking for those experienced officers and that's where the vast majority of hires are coming from right now."

Even though the pandemic influenced the resignations and retirement of some officers. Executive Director of IACP Kenny Winslow says it is still a dream career to have and the hard part is convincing people.

"A lot of people are just aging out," Winslow said. "This is a very noble and rewarding career and when done right and done correctly there's not a better career than that of law enforcement. So it's convincing those young men and young women to enter the field."

For some places, removing the entrance exam and degree requirements helped get more officers, but training would be more intense to meet physical requirements.

Winslow says, "It's difficult, challenging times for our career. There's no doubt about that in our profession, but like with all professions we'll continue to evolve and we'll work hard to do better.”

In the last 6 months, the Springfield Police Department has sworn in 26 officers and is still looking for more. The Champaign Police Department has hired eight officers since July 2021 with six of them being hired this year.

Sixty percent of the 239 agencies in Illinois reported being short-staffed this year and with 846 anticipated retirements and resignations, that percentage could increase.

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All police departments in Illinois reported a 40% to 70% decrease in people taking the entrance exam. One agency reported three sworn officers retiring in one year.

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