The Houston Police Department has a shortage of officers and officials may be looking to the upcoming state legislature for new laws to help with recruitment. Houston Public Radio’s Capella Tucker reports officials are looking for ways to widen the applicant pool without compromising standards.
One option being looked at is raising the maximum age for applicants. Currently an applicant must be under the age of 45. Houston Police Officers Union Executive Director Mark Clark says the city may ask the legislature for more flexibility.
“I think what we are going to talk to legislators about is to see if there’s a way to craft some new language that would allow the city council to raise that maximum age limit so that we might take advantage of more seasoned, experienced officers who might be retiring from other departments or even seasoned, experienced people who are retiring from the military.”
The department is also looking for more flexibility in offering the civil service exam which potential cadets must take to be considered for the Police Academy.Houston Mayor Bill White says sometimes the wait between exams and classes is too long for applicants.
“We had an experience where a number of people had tested and met the qualifications. They had to do so so far before the next class was accepted that they had taken a job somewhere else. What we need to do is more real time, more testing in remote locations to suit the users.”
One option that many officials are hoping to prevent is dropping the college requirement. Currently applicants must have 60 college hour credits or four years of military service. Houston City Councilmember and former police officer Adrian Garcia says that requirement needs to stay.
“There is more science involved in law enforcement than there was years ago. There’s more need for critical thinking than years ago. We are putting more technology in the hands of officers. You know, we want an organization that can think about anti-terrorism and effective drug and gang enforcement strategies.”
Garcia and others say they may consider waiving the college requirement for police officers from other cities who want to transfer to HPD. Garcia is looking into ways of reaching into high schools, maybe setting up a program for the police department that’s similar to Junior-ROTC for the military.
“I think we can invest into high school level individuals who know today in their heart and experienced individuals can tell these people are destined to become law enforcment officers. I think we can embrace those young people in a structured environment and bring them into the organization.”
All of these efforts are being looked at to help with the shortage of police officers. The Academy this week graduated a class of 35 cadets. In the past, a class of 70 was more the standard. HPOU’s Mark Clark says the department right now is dealing with the shortage through overtime programs. Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.