Bloomington Police Department looking for officers; unsure if new police reform bill will hinder recruits

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BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (WMBD) — Now hiring, the Bloomington Police Department is looking to hire up to a half dozen officers to patrol the streets.

However, the recently signed police reform legislation could play an impact on the recruiting process for departments all across the state.

The City of Bloomington police department is in need of new officers but is not seeing interested applicants. City Manager Tim Gleason said it’s been a nationwide trend over the last few years.

“It’s something police departments are seeing across the nation,” Gleason said.

Bloomington’s police department and other police departments in Illinois entering an uncharted hiring process after last month governor J.B. Pritzker signed the police reform bill (H.B. 3653).

Gleason who has a law enforcement background, said right now it’s still too early to tell if this bill will have a major impact on the hiring process of local police departments.

“It’s an area we’re keeping our eyes on. We have not had a recruiting cycle since the law was signed,” Gleason said.

Currently, the city is in search of a full-time police chief in addition to around 5-6 patrol officers. Gleason said despite the law and its negative reception from law enforcement, he believes Bloomington’s police chief job is an attractive position.

“I have no concerns whatsoever about being able to recruit highly qualified candidates and it’s going to be an exciting process,” Gleason said. “One thing that’s known throughout the state is this police department in the City of Bloomington is an excellent police department and is held in high regard.”

However, in recent years, Gleason and current interim police chief Gregg Scott said the city is seeing a drop in interested candidates. Chief Scott said his department struggles to fill roles consistently.

“When I hired on, 25 years ago we had close 300 applicants show up for one or two positions,” Scott said. “Now if we’re lucky, we get 50-75 applicants.”

Scott said “difficult” attitudes about police both locally and nationally have made the field of law enforcement less attractive than in years past. He also said there are other opportunities people will pursue over policing.

“The job market has been pretty good so it’s not like, well guess I’ll go try being a police officer,” Scott said. “It’s typically the people that really want to do the job and really want to help people.”

Chief Scott said there’s consistent turnover in the department due to retirements or officers pursuing other opportunities. So far the new police reform laws haven’t steered anybody away from the BPD.

“The retirements we have in the hopper are people who are at that point that they can retire,” Scott said. “I have heard of some officers that maybe have spoken with recruiters from other areas, some looking to move, but I haven’t had anyone come in and say ‘you know what I’ve had enough of Illinois politics, I’m leaving the state.”

City manager Gleason said recruiting for the full-time chief starts in a couple of months and will be a nationwide search.

Interim Chief Scott said they’re looking for anyone at least 20 years old, has a high school education, and the ability to possess a firearm. Interested candidates should apply online at the Bloomington hiring page.

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