ST. CLAIR COUNTY, Ill. ( - Three Metro East police departments are working together to attract quality candidates to their respective forces.

For the second year in a row, the O'Fallon Police Department, Fairview Heights Police Department and Collinsville Police Department are joining forces to widen the candidate pool, which has been shrinking in recent years.

"We thought this would bring more candidates in, having the three departments together," said Tim Mueller, a public information officer for the Fairview Heights Police Department.

Typically, a candidate interested in applying at a particular police department would need to complete the department's physical and written exam before moving on to the next step of the hiring process. By working together, a candidate that completes one physical and written test can now be eligible for all three departments.

"It's always a good method when you're able to make it easier on the candidate," said Brett Boerm, Assistant Chief of Police at the Collinsville Police Department. "If you're able to offer multiple opportunities through one test, that's the way to go."

Last year, the three departments received 100 applications, with 86 candidates eligible to take part in the physical and written tests. They were pleased with the turnout, but said overall the candidate pool has been shrinking.

"We probably don't get as many candidates as we used to, but we combat that at a local level, we are not changing how we do things," said Cpt. David Matevey with the O'Fallon Police Department. "Community policing is a huge part of what we do here and we'll continue to do so."

All three departments said ongoing national narratives surrounding police officers are hurting their recruitment efforts.

"The more you hear about it in the news and on social media, people are going to start taking it to heart," said Mueller. "They're going to start questioning whether it's a good idea for them and their families at this point."

In an effort to combat some of the ongoing perception, the departments said they're actively working to increase diversity within their departments to ensure officers are a reflection of the community the serve.

"We've targeted minority communities, we've done the career fairs at various colleges trying to reach that demographic and while it's gotten better, it's always been a struggle," said Asst. Chief Boerm.

Candidates must have their application submitted by July 16. Testing will take place on July 31.

The Illinois POWER Fitness test consists of sit and reach, one minute of sit-ups, one rep max bench press and a 1.5 mile timed run. Those who pass the physical exam will move on to the written test.

Each department has its own residency requirement. Collinsville PD requires its officers to live in St. Clair or Madison County. Fairview Heights PD requires officers to live within 25 miles of the police department. O'Fallon PD requires officers to live in Illinois and within 20 miles of the police department. Starting wages range from $67,000 to $77,000. For more details on eligibility requirements, visit each department's website. 

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