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Department of Justice Publishes Report on Non-Federal Law Enforcement Hiring

In October 2012, the bureau of Justice Statistics of the U.S. Department of Justice published a report on the hiring and retention of state and local law enforcement officers in 2008. The report showed a strong growth in the number of such law enforcement officers--about 25% between 1992 and 2008--resulting in a total of 705,000 full-time officers employed by around 16,000 general purpose state and local law enforcement agencies.

The agencies included local police departments, sheriff's offices and the 50 primary state agencies. The number of sworn personnel employed by those agencies increased an average of 1.6% per year from around 664,000 in 1992 to about 705,000 in 2008. This was one-and-one-half times the rate of increase in the U.S. population (1.2%). Sheriff's offices grew by 34% between 1992 and 2008 (2.1% per year) while local police departments increased by 23% (1.4%) state agencies, which grew by 15% (0.9%). Altogether, the agencies hired about 61,000 officers in 2008, but lost around 51,000 through retirement, resignation or other forms of separation, for a net gain of 10,000.

In 2008, 41% of officers were employed by agencies with 500 or more officers, 25% were at agencies with between 100 and 499 officers, 22% worked for agencies with between 25 and 99 officers, 8% were at agencies with between 10 and 24 officers and 4% worked at agencies with fewer than 10 officers. 65% of all officers worked for local police agencies, 26% for sheriff's offices and 9% for the primary state agencies. Agencies with fewer than 10 officers grew at 3.0% per year while those with 10-24 expanded by 1.5%, those with 25-99 increased by 1.6%, those with 100-499 grew by 1.1% and those with 500 or more expanded by 1:67,;. Overall, Local police grew by 1.7% annually while sheriff's offices increased ny 0.8% and primary state agencies by 0.6%.

About 7% of officers separated from the agencies in 2008. The separation rate for agencies with less than 10 officers (20%) was four times that of agencies with 500 or more offices (5%). Reasons for separation included resignations (54%), nonmedical retirement (23%), dismissals (10%), probationary rejections (5%) and medical or disability retirements (5%).

Resignations made up over half' of the separations from sheriff's offices (54%) and local police departments (55%), compared to less than a third (30%) from state agencies. Over half the separations from state agencies (52%) were for nonmedical retirement compared to less than a quarter (19%) from local Police departments and sheriff's agencies. Resignations were 71% of the separations at agencies with 500 or more officers.

A special survey was conducted of 3,000 of law agencies regarding recruitment, hiring and retention practices. The special survey found that only 10% of all agencies (employing 21% of all officers) had a mandatory retirement age for officers. About 25% of agencies with 500 or more officers had a mandatory retirement age, compared to 5% of agencies with less than 10 officers. Nonmedical retirement accounted for 44% of separation in agencies with a mandatory retirement age, compared to 20% in agencies without one.

In 2008, 19% of the agencies had around 7,500 officers in the military reserves who were called to active duty military service. This amounted to about 1% of the personnel in the largest agencies, but about one-fifth of the personnel in the smallest agencies. Overall, the military call-up rate was 1.1%, much less than the 1.7% which occurred in 2003.

During 2008, around 90% of the agencies actively recruited applicants for sworn positions. Recruiting budgets varied from a median of $50,000 in the largest agencies to $1,000 in the smallest. Recruitment tools included newspaper ads (69% of all agencies), personal contacts (59%), Internet advertisement (51%), job fairs (21%) and special events (15%).

A majority (57%) of all agencies, including 99% of the largest agencies, offered recruitment incentives. About half (57%) offered financial support for training while a quarter offered tuition reimbursement. 81% of officers were employed by agencies that paid them a salary during academy training, 71% had free academy training and 57% were offered college tuition reimbursement.

Over 90% of the agencies conducted background screening of potential officers in 2007. 'Iris included criminal history check (99.9% of all officers), driving record check (99.8%), background investigation (99.6%), personal interview (98.5%), medical exam (97.7%), drug test (93.0%), psychological evaluation (91.9%), physical agility/fitness test (83.8%), credit history check (82.2%) and written aptitude test (80.2%). Many officers were employed by agencies willing to waive certain negative Frier events, including credit-related problems (62%), marijuana use (76%), misdemeanor conviction (75%), suspended driver's license (72%), job-related problems (71%), DUI conviction (62%), other illegal drug use (47%) and gang affiliation (20%).

Around 19% of the agencies required new officers to sign minimum time-of-service contracts, usually for two (43%) or three (32%) years. Many agencies used financial incentives to improve retention rates including free or subsidized uniforms (65%), pay increases at specific career points (55%) and take-home cars (46%).

In 2008, 95% of the agencies allowed officers to work overtime. Over three-quarters (78%) didn't limit the amount of overtime. Almost 93% of the agencies allowed officers to work a second job, but most limited where and for how many hours the officers could work.

About 91% of the agencies offered officers full-service retirement in 2008. Usually, 20 or 25 years of service and a minimum age of 50 or 55 was required for full retirement.

Source: Hiring and Retention of State and Local Law Enforcement Officers, 2008 - Statistical Tables, NCJ 238251, available online at


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