CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Find the character, hire the talent, teach the skill: the renewed focus of one Coastal Bend police chief, as departments across the country are understaffed. A survey by the Police Executive Research Forum shows three out of every four departments report declining applications over the last five years.
The Los Angeles Police Department reports a shortage of 500 officers, and New Orleans down 300 from last year. Police officials say the drops stem from multiple issues including burnout and low morale.
Nationwide, studies show police staffing is down by 3%, resignations up by 42%, last year.
In the Coastal Bend, the departments of Aransas Pass, Corpus Christi, Robstown and Bishop are overall fine on staffing, but it is a competitive market.
"Pay is a huge thing that some agencies around us have as an incentive to attract that type of officer from up north or wherever they're trying to get them from into our area here,” said Eric Blanchard, Aransas Pass’ chief of police.
At the Aransas Pass Police Department, the patrol officer rate is $21.25 an hour. Bishop officers make at least $17.79 an hour. In Robstown, starting pay is $18.50. The chiefs of all three say they hope to raise those numbers.
“You're not going to get rich doing it but it's fulfilling to know that you can go out there and protect others and serve, and there's men and women that do it every day with honor,” Chief Edward Day said, of Bishop PD.
The objective has not changed but the job has, over the years, also its reputation, in some places – which causes some officers to walk away.
“I would urge other agencies, don't just get wrapped up in the national issue that we're experiencing but look internally at your culture,” said Chief Blanchard. “Is there something failing within the department?”
Corpus Christi's Senior Officer Gena Raichert says their only vacancies are related to retirement and resignation.
CCPD’s starting pay is at about $28 an hour.