The Austin and UT Police Departments both employ close to the authorized number of officers but are still looking to increase recruitments.
APD is budgeted for 1,959 officers and currently employs 1,833, which is a higher rate than usual for the department, APD Chief Brian Manley said. UTPD recruiting officer Vivian Benavides said his department employs 95-97 of the authorized 102 officers, which is also a higher than average rate of employment for the department.
“We know that we need additional officers,” Manley said. “We’ve had several studies that have been done on the police department, and our staffing levels and those studies have all come back saying that we do need additional officers.”
While both departments want additional recruits, they are unable to acquire more than the authorized amount of officers due to University and Austin City Council budgets. Benavides and Manley said they expect their authorized numbers to increase.
“We look at any changes to the city that might increase the need for officers,” Manley said. “This year, I expect part of the discussion will be about the increase that we’re seeing in violent crime both in the downtown area but also understanding the concerns to other parts of Austin, including West Campus.”
Kacey Vandervort, communication sciences and disorders junior, said she would like to see an increase in policing, especially in West Campus.
“I know they have stepped it up in West Campus, but I think it should be a 24/7 step up rather than just the busier times,” Vandervort said.
UTPD anticipates full employment within a couple of weeks, though the new officers will have to go through training before operating alone, Benavides said. He said training takes 10 months for new officers and four weeks for those with experience.
APD continues to recruit to fill their numbers, but due to larger classes of officers eligible for retirement, APD is losing more officers per month on average than in previous years, Manley said. On average, APD loses 60-70 officers a year, Manley said.
“We’re recruiting very aggressively,” Manley said. “We have a very aggressive training schedule put together to where we’re looking to hold three cadet classes this year, each one with 80 officers in it.”
Last Friday, APD graduated a cadet class that added 67 officers to their ranks, Manley said. APD will begin training three additional classes in March, June and October, Manley said.
UTPD on average loses five to seven officers a year and gains four to eight a year, Benavides said.
“Based on budgetary restraints and things of that nature, if (the University) gives us the green light to hire 10 to 12 (more officers), we’re obviously going to try to get 10 to 12,” Benavides said. “But if that number’s a lot lower, we’ll still accomplish our mission.”
Both APD and UTPD are enhancing their online presence to attract more recruits. APD updated its website in an effort to reach younger generations, Manley said. UTPD will look to social media to help fill their applicant pool, Benavides said.
“The website is very much more interactive,” Manley said. “We focus on the opportunities in the police department, the different ways that you can help the community as an officer.”