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Amarillo PD: Officer shortage is critical issue

The Amarillo Police Department said they have 21 total officer positions needing to be filled. (ABC 7 Amarillo-Tiffany Lester)

The Amarillo Police Department tells ABC 7 News they have nearly two dozen officer positions needing to be filled.

But they said it's not as easy as picking from a stack of applicants. They need more money to fill them.

“The only way I can get those positions is if our city council authorizes those positions and then funds those positions, that’s the only way that we can get them,” said Amarillo Police Chief Ed Drain. “None of us like to pay taxes, but from our property taxes, we don’t bring in enough property taxes to fund the police department for one year and our police department, I can guarantee you, we are not on the Cadillac plan. There are a lot of things that we don’t have. Body cameras would be nice to have, but I can do without body cameras. I can’t do without police officers. I’ve got to have them.”

APD is authorized to have 375 officers, but because of budget cuts to increase base salaries during the last fiscal year, 16 of those positions were frozen and five others have yet to be filled. That adds up to 21 total open spots.

Chief Drain tells ABC 7 News the shortage is already having a negative impact on the department.

“It affects our response times. We had done a pretty good job at getting our response time down from about 30 minutes to closer to 12, but over the last couple of months that has crept back up to about 14 minutes to our regular calls for service because we can’t even get the guys to fill the positions for overtime because of vacations going on and we’re just so short right now,” said Drain.

Fortunately, there are 20 officers in training right now, but that training takes time.

Drain said six won’t be available until this fall, while the other 14 aren’t able to help until next spring.

“Our training pipeline is very very long. It’s not like I hire a police officer today and then they’re up and running in a month. It’s over a year. We have to test them, written test, we have to do a physical fitness test and a very long background investigation before we even hire them and then the training time they’re in is almost a year long on top of that and I’m still going to have retirements along the way and it’s very difficult to catch up unless I have enough officers on the front end,” said Drain.

Drain tells ABC 7 News he is now hiring civilians for some positions, like crime scene technicians, in hopes of working more efficiently, while cutting costs and saving money for the open police officer positions.

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