By year’s end, the Houston Police Department will have lost about 740 officers – as many as the city of Orlando employs – to retirement in a two-year period, the Houston Chronicle reports. There may not be enough money available in the next two fiscal years to train replacements for even half the officers the department is losing, or to hire the 1,000-plus civilians the department is missing.
The scenario is reminiscent of a time in the late 1980s when another sudden, dramatic decline in police ranks led to increased response times to the most serious calls and a precipitous decline in the reported rate at which crimes were solved. “If we’re going to continue community-oriented policing, and full-service policing, we will have to do more with our officers,” said Chief Harold Hurtt. “Pay right now is fairly competitive,” he said said. So although retirements are hurting the department, not many officers are leaving for other jobs, as they did in the 1980s. Still, there is a crisis: Houston is authorized to have 6,398 officers. Hurtt’s staff is studying whether a force that size is adequate, but the point is moot now: Only 4,921 of those positions are filled, about 77 percent.