Some officers change jobs to seek out danger, according to one officer quoted in the story: “They want the action . . . that’s why they became police officers.”
Working for small-town Central Texas police departments has its advantages, but a high turnover rate among officers in rural areas is one issue that many of those departments regularly contend with.
A small-town department might be a tight-knit group that experiences less threat in its day-to-day business. But the drawbacks of working for a small force include lower wages and less on-the-job training.
Employee data gathered by the Tribune-Herald from 24 small forces in the area show that at least 30 officers switched to another force in the area in the past five years. Of those who transferred, 15 months was the average amount of time they spent at one department, according to available data.
While some officers switch jobs because of relocations or life changes, many officers said higher wages and more excitement encourage rural police officers to move on to other departments.
“I think the reason there’s turnover in small towns is because everybody is looking for something better, always having ‘the grass is greener’-type syndrome, or wanting to go to a bigger agency or someplace that’s busier,” Moody police officer Richard Ray said.
An angle that wasn't mentioned in the story but which is worth highlighting: Employment instability in small jurisdictions has in the past contributed to problems with so-called "gypsy cops," which is law enforcement slang for a peace officer who floats from department to department regardless of, or because of, misconduct or poor job performance. Frequently, such officers can readily find more police work because of high turnover in small, rural departments.
Tom Coleman in the Tulia cases - who US Senator John Cornyn once awarded Law Enforcement Officer of the Year honors before he was later convicted of perjury - was probably Texas' most famous gypsy cop. More recently, in Hockley County Sheriff's deputies were caught providing protection for a meth ring run by an outlaw motorcycle gang, a scenario straight out of the TV show Sons of Anarchy. So there's a potential accountability problem when small towns face high turnover and a limited hiring pool, over and above the logistical problem of having enough warm bodies to cover patrol and jailer duties.