TEXARKANA — The number of people applying to be police officers nationwide is dwindling.
However, even though both Texarkana police departments are seeing fewer applicants overall they also are still seeing enough qualified candidates.
"We are not seeing the same thing locally that a lot of places are seeing," said Texarkana Texas Police Chief Kevin Schutte. "I am very proud of the professionalism of our department but also proud of our community," he said.
Schutte credits the main reason being the Texarkana community is predominantly supportive of its police departments. He also attributes it to supportive city leaders and a community that overall works toward the same goals of serving and protecting the community.
Schutte said the city has been supportive to purchase equipment the police department needs.
"Our community support is phenomenal. Our officers feel like part of the community. We work hard to have positive relationships with citizens. Open lines of communication are important and I meet on a regular basis with other community leaders," Schutte said. "There is a dual approach to holding people accountable. Anywhere I can go and answer questions about our department, I try to do that. I am very proud of the professionalism of our department but also proud of our community," he said.
In September 2019, the International Association of Chiefs of Police conducted a membership survey to better understand the extent of recruiting issues for police departments.
The IACP survey showed that the difficulty in recruiting law enforcement officers and employees is not due to one particular cause. Instead, multiple social, political, and economic forces are all at play in shaping the current state of recruitment and retention, according to the IACP website.
The public image of law enforcement is one factor.
In 2019, the survey showed agencies strongly believe public perception of law enforcement limits interest in the profession and is a sizable barrier to effective recruitment. Scrutiny of the police, cellphone recordings of interactions between the police and public, and media coverage have led many young people to view police differently than their parent's generation may have.
The survey showed a majority of police officers feel their jobs have gotten more difficult since high-profile use- of-force incidents, many against people of color, have received national attention. There have been several more of these incidents since the survey was taken.
Line-of-duty deaths have also become more highly publicized, including the killings of police due to community tension such as the mass shooting of Dallas police officers in 2016.
The survey also showed younger people starting careers are more apt to value work-life balance than their parent's generation. This results in young people hoping for more flexible hours and guaranteed time off. Mandated overtime and missing holidays with family are less appealing to them.
Schutte said TTPD, like most departments, are seeing less people sit for the Civil Service test. But the department is still able to find qualified applicants from those that do take the test.
There are similar issues for Texarkana Arkansas.
Sgt. Kelly Pilgreen, spokesman for the Texarkana Arkansas Police Department, said TAPD does not receive "a flood of applicants."
He said an average about 20 applicants take the Civil Service written and physical tests and about five of that 20 meet the requirements. On average, three of those applicants go on to the academy.
TTPD is allotted 91 sworn officers and usually have close to that number serving, depending on how many are still in training. TAPD is allotted 85 sworn officers.
According to the IACP survey respondents, applicant quality often coincided with challenges to getting recruits through the entire hiring process.
While the multistage hiring process is helpful for agencies to weed out recruits who do not make the cut, the recruiting process can be a long one. Of the respondents to the IACP recruitment survey, 47.5% reported having a hiring process that lasts anywhere from four months to over a year.
TAPD has a request on the next Civil Service Commission agenda to extend its probationary period for police officers to 18 months instead of 12 months.
TTPD officers already have 18 months probationary training.
"We make absolutely sure they are prepared to serve the citizens," Schutte said.
Both departments place a lot of emphasis on recruitment practices.
"One thing we actively do is recruit minorities, " Schutte said. "The goal is that our department should mirror the community's population. We have been fortunate that we have officers from all demographics, we have women officers, and that's good for the department. "
Pilgreen said TAPD has been creating promotional videos to recruit officers nation wide.
"We want to think outside the box and let people know we are hiring in Texarkana. What I hope, is somebody might be tired of big city life and want to come to Texarkana," he said.