Thursday, March 08, 2007

Houston PD can't fill trainee slots

Nobody in the state can find enough guards to staff Texas prisons and jails, and now even higher paying police officer jobs in Houston are going unfilled. Reported yesterday's Houston Chronicle:
This year the city funded six new police training classes to add 420 new officers to the Houston Police Department, but could not fill those classes. HPD was only able to add about 350 new officers, [Houston City Council member Ronald] Green said.

"If you know anybody interested in being a police officer we need them — it's a good, honorable position," he said.

In response to a stakeholder who asked why HPD had such a hard time recruiting, Green said "pay" is likely a factor.

HPD Fondren Division Lt. David Benavidez, who attended the meeting, said many recruits who would be police officers are lured into higher paying jobs in a "vibrant economy" and many officers are also in the U.S. military. Additional stays fighting the war in Iraq are keeping them from joining the police force, he said.

This is a statewide problem. Between hiring demands from the Iraq war, the war on terror, and boosted border enforcement, there simply aren't enough people willing to do these jobs at prevailing wages. Texas prisons are chronically understaffed by about 3,000 correctional officers. The Harris County Jail is also understaffed, and the Dallas jail can't find enough guards either. Staff turnover at the Texas Youth Commission hovers at about 50%.

It's easy to say "build more jails, hire more guards," etc., but those actually doing the recruiting in the field simply can't find enough warm bodies to fill the slots. What then?

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