Officer Shortage Impacting Smaller Police Departments Too

It is getting harder to find qualified candidates to join police departments across North Texas.

The lack of manpower is causing some big problems at smaller departments.

Earlier this week officers in the Irving Police Department's narcotics and vice divisions were reassigned and the full-time tactical team was changed to part-time to deal with staffing changes.

The DeSoto Police Department notified DeSoto ISD that it was considering putting several school resource officers back on their beat to handle its shortage of officers.

Sergeant Jimmy Holley, president of the Richardson Police Officers association said the tough decision illustrate what law enforcement agencies across the country are going through.

"It doesn't take a whole lot to mess with your manpower," he said. "Police departments, big or small, the choices are always going to be 911 calls. They have to be answered. Patrol is going to win out on those tough decisions every time."

Law enforcement experts said the ability to handle the vacancies on a day-to day basis can be more difficult for smaller departments.

"It's not that smaller departments are facing any more of a shortage than larger ones per se, it is that they are hurt much more by missing two or three officers versus the larger departments that can easily absorb those missing spots ," said Mitch Slaymaker, deputy executive director of the Texas Municipal Police Association.

Unlike their neighbors in Duncanville and DeSoto, the Cedar Hill Police Department has been able to buck the trend of low recruitment.

"Over the past three years, one of our best recruiting tools has been word of mouth - having officers that work here reach out to their friends and people they know in other agencies or people they know have an interest in law enforcement and telling them about the department," said Lieutenant Colin Chenault.

"We've really done a good job of that over the last three years to the point that we credit that with us not reflecting the same sort of shortages that we see in other agencies."

At a time when larger cities are offering thousands of dollars in incentives to new recruits, some smaller cities cannot afford to spend that kind of money.

Slaymaker said fixing the problem requires expanding the pool of qualified candidates.

Many departments are hesitant to lower their standards to help potential recruits make it through the application and training process.

"Many things would need to be fixed before we again see a robust candidate pool, but we at TMPA, again, warn that if we don't start immediately it is only going to get much worse."

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