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Central Texas law enforcement facing workforce shortage, surveys explain why

DPS Officers CR TT.jpg
Posted at 4:56 PM, Jul 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-15 18:05:59-04

After the COVID-19 pandemic the average turnover for state and local jobs was 23.5 percent according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

63 percent of law enforcement agencies said the number of applicants for police officer positions have decreased in the last nine years, according to a national survey by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF); and 29 percent of Police Officer resignations occur within the first year of employment.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics

Right here in Central Texas the City of Killeen reports that 26.5 percent of their police officers have been resigning within the first year and a half of employment, leading to a police officer shortage.

The shortages in police departments are due to fewer applicants for vacant positions, resignations before retirement age to pursue a career outside law enforcement, and a large number of the workforce approaching retirement age across the nation, according to PERF; Many officers in the 1990s joined due to the federally funded hiring programs, which means close to 10 percent of current officers are eligible for retirement now and about 15 percent will be of retirement age in the next three to five years.

Elements of concern.JPG
In comparison to the citywide survey, Killeen, the top three elements of concern (Information Systems, Pay, and Benefits) were the same across all departments

With growing vacant positions, the need is for the size of police forces to grow. This is where rising salaries and bonus/ hire incentives are being thrown into the mix to spur the workforce.

Many Central Texas cities have begun offering hiring incentives and signing bonuses in hopes of recruiting officers that will stay in the long run.

These incentives are a reaction of the current shortages and turnover rate that many police departments are facing, in fact retention is one of the most prevalent issues that law enforcement is facing throughout the nation.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects a 5 percent growth in law enforcement jobs leading up to 2029, which is faster than the average for many other occupations.

Below are recent annual starting salaries for police officers across Central Texas and other major Texas metropolitan areas:

Waco $46,855 to $48,260
Temple $48,589
Killeen 54,510.98
Belton $31,500
Hewitt $43,043
Pflugerville $55,760
Texas DPS $55,481
Houston $42,000
Dallas $55,760

With more open positions, and fewer applicants, salaries are expected to grow. . . even for smaller police departments here in Central Texas.