Staffing leads Lubbock’s law enforcement challenges

In private meeting with department leaders, mayor Tray Payne focuses on open communication with agencies and partners.
Published: Jan. 31, 2023 at 10:55 PM CST
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Mayor Tray Payne used a private meeting Tuesday morning to hear what struggles and opportunities face Lubbock County’s law enforcement agencies. He invited KCBD to view a portion of the meeting before closing the doors to allow the department heads to speak freely and candidly.

The attendees included chief Floyd Mitchell with Lubbock police, county sheriff Kelly Rowe, district attorney K. Sunshine Stanek, and DPS regional director Joe Longway.

After the meeting, Payne described it as encouraging and optimistic.

“We do see a rise in criminal activity in a lot of areas,” he said outside the courthouse Tuesday afternoon, “but we’re also finding ways to openly communicate and address those issues and problems.”

Personnel shortages were one issue each agency had in common. Payne said DPS is short about 600 agents statewide while troopers are doing cycling shifts between their typical jurisdictions and assignments to Operation: Lone Star, Texas’ effort to secure the southern border using state resources. Payne said Sheriff Rowe’s office is short jailers for the Lubbock County Detention Center and Chief Mitchell’s department needs more officers on patrol.

In order to attract more people to the profession, Payne said these agencies are focusing on promoting law and order to a younger audience.

“We talked about trying to get into our younger communities,” he said, “our Texas Tech communities, and let them know the importance of criminal justice and let them know being in law enforcement is a great profession.”

Payne, who previously served as Lubbock County’s district attorney, said these kinds of conversations will help spread and unify these agencies’ messaging and approach to solving the problems in our area.

State lawmakers are also acutely aware of the staffing problems facing small and rural law enforcement agencies. The Senate’s proposed budget includes $350 million in public safety grants dedicated to those communities, while other budget items include millions in salary raises for adult and juvenile probation officers. It is up to other lawmakers to decide how that money would get distributed, who would qualify, and how to apply with future legislation.