It's not a problem that began yesterday or even this year, and likewise it won't be solved overnight, but the Lubbock Police Department is 11 officers short and 80 to 90 officers below where it would like to be. Now, the city is trying to play catch-up. They say citizens are safe, but Lubbock could be safer.
When asked if people should be concerned about public safety, Councilman Tom Martin says, "Certainly we want to make sure as a community we have adequate staffing at the police department and we know right now it's not adequately staffed."
Mayor Marc McDougal says, "Are we safe? Do we have enough police officers out there? I think the initial answer is yes."
Police Chief, Claude Jones says, "If you look around, it's pretty safe. Sure we have some situations come up, some homicides, a string of robberies, but all and all our citizens do feel safe."
According to Chief Jones, the LPD has 309 officers on the payroll today. In order to have two officers for every 1,000 people, as the city would like, they'd need about 80 or 90 more. Mayor McDougal says, "Another 90 officers in this year would cost about $9 million and the money is simply not there for that."
Even if the money was there, is the talent? Councilman Tom Martin says only half of applicants who apply to law enforcement around the state can even pass a twelfth grade level reading and writing exam, let alone pass background and drug tests and get through the academy. "By the time you get through screening, you're lucky to hire one or two applicants out of every 100 that apply to be an officer." McDougal says, "Our instructions to the chief of police have been, 'If you can hire officers, you get them hired and get with us and we'll figure out a way to fund it.'"
City council has budgeted for an extra five police positions next fiscal year for a total of 325. Meanwhile Chief Jones has put an emphasis on recruitment. He says, "We've changed recruiting efforts. We do 99% on the police department side. We changed our recruiter, he's doing a good job. When I came aboard as chief in 2001, I told council we need to address manpower and why we can't hire officers. It's a statewide problem."
Chief Jones says city council has helped the department take a step in the right direction. They've budgeted for more enticing benefits packages to help attract applicants and retain existing officers.