The Badger Project

28 Agencies That Employ the Most Wandering Police Officers

Milwaukee County Sheriff employs 16 officers previously fired or forced out.

By , The Badger Project - Apr 20th, 2024 04:03 pm
Police. Photo by Highway Patrol Images / (CC BY 2.0)

Police. Photo by Highway Patrol Images / (CC BY 2.0)

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

AGENCY total employed in 2024 total employed in 2021
Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office 16 12
Waukesha County Sheriff’s Office 14 4
Milwaukee Police Dept 12 1
Beloit Police Dept 6 0
Racine County Sheriff’s Office 6 3
Lauderdale Lakes Law Enforcement Patrol 6 5
Milwaukee Co Children’s Det. Ctr 5 0
Racine Police Dept 5 0
WisDOTourism State Fair Park Police 5 3
Shawano County Sheriff’s Office 5 3
Brown Deer Police Dept 4 2
Burlington Town Police Dept 4 3
Washington County Sheriff’s Office 4 3
Clark County Sheriff’s Office 3 2
Clinton Police Dept 3 0
Delavan Police Dept 3 2
Hartford Town Police Dept 3 0
Kenosha County Sheriff’s Office 3 1
Kewaskum Police Dept 3 0
Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Office 3 3
Milwaukee County House of Correction 3 2
Mukwonago Town Police Dept 3 0
Richland County Sheriff’s Office 3 1
Troy Township Water Patrol 3 3
UW – Oshkosh Police Dept 3 3
Vilas County Sheriff’s Office 3 2
Waupaca County Sheriff’s Office 3 1
Wauwatosa Police Dept 3 1

Source: Wisconsin Department of Justice

Wisconsin law enforcement agencies that employ the most wandering officers was originally published by The Badger Project.

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