April 1, 2023

New PERF survey shows police agencies are losing officers faster than they can hire new ones


PERF members,

If you walk into any police department or sheriff’s office across the country today, you will probably hear about one issue more than any other: staffing. Countless chiefs and sheriffs have told me that they’re seeing fewer and fewer applicants and are having trouble retaining the officers and deputies they already have. With so many agencies experiencing staffing shortages at the same time, this is a national problem.

But these are just anecdotal reports, and we wanted to better understand the staffing situation nationwide. Last year, we asked PERF members to share information about their agencies’ staffing numbers in 2019, 2020, and 2021. This year, we updated that survey to include staffing information about 2022.

The findings, available below, show both some good and bad news. Hiring seems to be picking back up, as responding agencies reported hiring more sworn officers in 2022 than in 2021, 2020, or even 2019—the last pre-pandemic year.

However, agencies are losing officers faster than they can hire new ones, so total sworn staffing has continued to decline. Resignations are still increasing; responding agencies reported nearly 50 percent more resignations in 2022 than in 2019. While retirements came down a bit in 2022, agencies still reported nearly 20 percent more in 2022 than in 2019. As a result, total sworn staffing has dropped nearly 5 percent over the past three years.

Thank you to each of the 182 agencies that filled out this survey. I know these information requests take some of your valuable time, and I’m always grateful for your assistance.


About the Survey

We sent this survey in early February to all PERF members who are chief executives of their agencies (chiefs, sheriffs, commissioners, etc.). The 182 responses came from agencies serving 38 states and the District of Columbia: 163 local law enforcement agencies, 12 college or university law enforcement agencies, four transportation law enforcement agencies, and a federal law enforcement agency, a housing law enforcement agency, and a tribal law enforcement agency.

Responding agencies employed a total of roughly 79,500 sworn officers in 2022. Due to the composition of PERF’s membership, larger agencies are overrepresented in this survey.

Comparison to Last Year’s Survey

PERF’s survey last year asked agencies for information about staffing numbers from 2019 through 2021. The number of agencies responding (184) was similar to this year, but last year’s responding agencies were larger on average (employing roughly 130,000 total officers) and included five Canadian agencies, while this year’s survey was limited to U.S. agencies. Despite these differences, the two surveys found similar trends. The second graph in each section below compares the results of the 2022 and 2023 surveys.


The 2023 survey asked agencies to provide their total sworn staffing numbers on January 1 of 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023. Respondents reported that in January 2023, sworn staffing was 0.9 percent lower than in January 2022 and 4.8 percent lower than in January 2020.

This is similar to the trend seen in PERF’s 2022 survey.



Agencies provided the total number of sworn officers hired during calendar years 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022. They reported a decline of more than 20 percent in 2020, but hiring has since rebounded. In 2022, responding agencies hired nearly 35 percent more sworn officers than in 2020 and 5.6 percent more than in 2019.

This generally aligns with the findings of last year’s staffing survey.



Resignations among sworn officers stayed consistent from 2019 to 2020 but then jumped by more than 35 percent in 2021 and another 9 percent in 2022. There were 47 percent more resignations in 2022 than in 2019.

This is consistent with the findings of last year’s survey.



Sworn officer retirements increased more than 12 percent from 2019 to 2020 and more than 14 percent in 2021, then fell more than 7 percent in 2022. There were 19 percent more retirements in 2022 than in 2019.

Last year’s survey showed the same general trend but over different years, with a larger spike in retirements in 2020 followed by a slight decline in 2021.

While these results contain some positive news, the steady drop in sworn staffing is deeply concerning. Police departments and sheriffs’ offices are losing experienced officers, and that institutional knowledge is hard to replace. On the positive side, the many new officers entering the profession represent an opportunity for police departments to reshape their culture and develop a generation of cops prepared to meet the challenges of tomorrow.

In the coming months, PERF will be publishing a report on police recruitment and retention that summarizes a conference we hosted on this topic in November. We’ll continue focusing on this issue, because we know it’s your greatest concern at the moment.

Thank you again to everyone who filled out this survey. I know we ask you for a lot of information, but it’s our best mechanism for ensuring that our work reflects what you’re experiencing in the field.