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Wisconsin law enforcement agencies that employ the most wandering officers

by The Badger Project
April 16, 2024

More than 300 active officers in the state were fired or forced out from previous jobs in law enforcement. Here are the departments that employ the most.

By Peter Cameron, THE BADGER PROJECT

Wandering officers — police and jailers who were fired or forced out from a previous job in law enforcement — have increased in Wisconsin by more than 50% since 2021, an investigation by The Badger Project has found.

More than 300 active officers in the state were negatively separated from previous law enforcement jobs in the state, according to state records. The number does not include wandering officers who came from other states.

In 2021, the number of wandering officers in Wisconsin totaled less than 200, according to an investigation by The Badger Project.

A total of about 15,000 law enforcement officers, including those working in jails and other detention facilities, are employed in Wisconsin, according to the Wisconsin Department of Justice. Wandering officers make up about 2 percent of the total.

Many wandering officers are simply rookies who didn’t perform at an acceptable level during their initial training probationary period, when the bar to fire them is very low, experts say. But for others, misconduct — including lying, public intoxication and harassment — led to the loss of their law enforcement positions.

The total number of Wisconsin law enforcement officers has been sinking for years, a “cop crunch” that puts pressure on law enforcement agencies trying to fill positions, experts say.


LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES WITH THE MOST WANDERING OFFICERS ON STAFF

AGENCYtotal employed in 2024total employed in 2021
Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office1612
Waukesha County Sheriff’s Office144
Milwaukee Police Dept121
Beloit Police Dept60
Racine County Sheriff’s Office63
Lauderdale Lakes Law Enforcement Patrol65
Milwaukee Co Children’s Det. Ctr50
Racine Police Dept50
WisDOTourism State Fair Park Police53
Shawano County Sheriff’s Office53
Brown Deer Police Dept42
Burlington Town Police Dept43
Washington County Sheriff’s Office43
Clark County Sheriff’s Office32
Clinton Police Dept30
Delavan Police Dept32
Hartford Town Police Dept30
Kenosha County Sheriff’s Office31
Kewaskum Police Dept30
Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Office33
Milwaukee County House of Correction32
Mukwonago Town Police Dept30
Richland County Sheriff’s Office31
Troy Township Water Patrol33
UW – Oshkosh Police Dept33
Vilas County Sheriff’s Office32
Waupaca County Sheriff’s Office31
Wauwatosa Police Dept31

Source: Wisconsin Department of Justice

The Badger Project is a nonpartisan, citizen-supported journalism nonprofit in Wisconsin.


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This article first appeared on The Badger Project and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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