A National Crisis
MISSOURI CITY, TEXAS (April 6, 2023) — The nation has been facing sweeping labor shortages starting in 2021, and public safety departments are experiencing the brunt of the crisis. Multiple social, political, and economic factors are at play, making police officer shortages a complex challenge for law enforcement departments to face. Retaining, recruiting and training a capable police force is critical for the well-being of any community. As seasoned police officers are opting to retire and change career paths, agency shortages will continue to be a strategic priority for years to come.
Based on research, two thirds of law enforcement professionals stated that police recruitment and retention are the largest issues facing law enforcement. The amount of police officers in service has decreased while the population has increased. This means that police officers must serve more people than before, but may have less personnel to do so.
According to the 2021 International Association of Chiefs of Police Survey (IACP) on police retention and recruitment:
- 78 percent of agencies reported having difficulty in recruiting qualified candidates,
- 65 percent of agencies reported having too few candidates applying to be law enforcement officers, and
- 75 percent of agencies reported that recruiting was more difficult in 2019 than it was in 2014.
One key factor in the shortage of police officers is the increased number of officers that are quitting or retiring. In 2023, the Police Executive Research Forum, or PERF, conducted a Survey on Police Workforce Trends to examine the staffing crisis facing law enforcement officials in 2022. They compared statistics from the last three years to determine if this shortage is a widespread occurrence, or one limited to a select number of agencies.
PERF found a “significant” increase in resignations, citing an overall 18 percent growth in the resignation rate in 2020-21, compared to 2019-20. The survey also found that the increase in retirements was even larger — a 45 percent growth.
The Texas Landscape
Dallas, Austin and Houston are experiencing the same crunch in police shortages. From Tyler, and Longview, to Nacogdoches and beyond, law enforcement agencies all over Texas are struggling to hire and retain current staff levels. Below are some testimonials from various law enforcement agencies throughout the state.
“This is all across the country, and matter of fact, it’s around the world,” said new Nagodoches Chief of Police Scott Weems. "I just got back from the FBI academy and there we represented a member from each state and 37 different countries, and we all had the same problem: staffing shortages.”
This year in Polk County, north of Houston, Sheriff Byron Lyons lost three deputies in a week — one who went to work for the city police force and another to Walmart. In his 20 years with the Sheriff's Office, the current shortage is the worst the office has had, he said.
"I know that me being shorthanded is not a problem exclusive for me," Lyons said. "There are agencies in the entire state and nation that are struggling trying to find officers. We are all suffering the same thing."
“It’s nationwide. It’s not a good time to be recruiting to law enforcement,” said Freeman Martin, deputy director of Homeland Security Operations for the Texas Department of Public Safety. “I talked to several police chiefs and sheriffs here lately where they post five vacancies at a sheriff's department and get one applicant.”
What Is Missouri City Doing About Its Public Safety Shortage?
While resignation and retirement rates are increasing, Missouri City is “doing everything to recruit and retain the best and the brightest, when it comes to staff overall,” said City Manager Angel L. Jones. “Specifically relating to police, we are proactively addressing a national police shortage crisis and consistent salary increases. We understand that even though there are bidding wars between jurisdictions, we need to be competitive and we are taking the necessary steps to do so."
Over the past two years, Missouri City committed to giving raises amounting to a 10 percent increase to all civil service employees — this includes police officers and firefighters. In an unprecedented move, the City allocated $2.4 million for FY 2023 in anticipation of completing the salary study for all employees. Another significant budget move created six (6) new positions within the police department and 19 new positions for the fire department. The positions are as follows:
- 2 new traffic officers (FY 2022)
- 4 new patrol officers (FY 2023)
- 14 new personnel — 12 to support the new Fire Station #6 (FY 2022)
- 5 personnel (FY 2023)
Because the aforementioned positions are new and have not been filled, statistics including those 25 positions are skewed. It should be underscored that the positions are new and have never been filled. Telecommunications officers (dispatchers) were given a flat $8,466 salary increase for retention, along with a starting salary increase, making Missouri City dispatchers one of the highest paid in the region.
Currently, new public safety hires receive a $10,000 signing bonus, which equates to a year-one police salary of $65,580. This is amongst the highest year-one salaries in comparable neighboring cities. Next, a salary study is in the review process and is anticipated to be implemented by mid-year 2023, after City Council approval. Also, the first meet-and-confer agreement for the City and Missouri City Police Officers Association (MCPOA) is under way. The initial meeting to establish ground rules for its development is scheduled.
City Manager Jones hosted a Brown Bag series that informed not only public safety employees of the state of the salary study, but all employees. Her forthright style of communication has been well-received by a number of employees. This dedication to maintaining transparency and openness extends to the citizens of Missouri City, as she is committed to working with City Council to move the organization forward, with a focus on all employees and a special emphasis on public safety.
The future of public safety stability in Missouri City will be multifaceted, focusing on employee retention, innovative strategies for recruitment, and achieving and maintaining competitive wages and benefits over time. Coupled with market salaries, a multimedia approach has been adopted to produce collateral that reaches across generations. From print advertisement in newspapers and magazines, website banners, kiosk announcements, social media platforms, push cards and outdoor LED boards, to videos highlighting special units, the hiring need will be prominently communicated. Additional recruiting techniques will include:
- Diversity initiatives
- Community engagement
- New technology
We are committed to utilizing methods and approaches that will prove beneficial to our employees and the well-being and continued growth of the City of Missouri City.