(The Badger Project) -- The number of law enforcement officers in the state and the number of law enforcement academy graduates here have fallen to their lowest points in at least a decade, according to data from the Wisconsin Department of Justice.

Wisconsin has about 13,600 law enforcement officers at the moment. That’s down from a decade high of nearly 16,000 in 2012. And the state graduated only 766 people from law enforcement academies in fiscal year 2020, according to the most recent data from the state’s DOJ. That number has been dropping gradually since a decade-high 954 people graduated from academies in fiscal year 2012.

Although the decreases are small, they are occurring while the state’s population is on the rise. Wisconsin grew from about 5.7 million to about 5.9 million in the last decade, according to the U.S. Census. That’s an increase of about 4%.

The struggle to put officers on the road is “real,” said Paul Olson, police chief of the 11-officer department in the little village of Winneconne near Oshkosh.

“We have a difficult time and a lot of that I believe is the lack of candidates in the (law enforcement) field,” he said.

David Bauer, the police chief of the 13-officer department in Dodgeville, about an hour west of Madison, said job openings that used to receive 30-40 applications five years ago are now bringing in only a dozen or so.

Read the full story from The Badger Project.

Last Update: May 26, 2021 10:10 am CDT

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