Houston, which like many American cities is struggling to attract police officers, held its first recruitment open house last weekend. Lt. Kenneth Miller said the problem has many causes. Many potential applicants turn to other professions. And with obesity and recreational drug use up, many are less recruitable, he said. Just four or five years ago, nearly 5,300 officers carried the HPD badge. Now that number hovers below 4,800, and the city has grown in that time.
And worse, officer retirements have been on the increase in recent years. Because of a hiring spike in the late 1980s, more than 40 percent of the department’s staff will be eligible for retirement by December 2007, Miller said. That leaves the police struggling to beef up an already beleaguered staff, while at the same time keeping pace with the wave of retirements.