DPS limits number of recruits following police department pushback

The state’s law enforcement agency received pushback from small police departments in its effort to recruit troopers to work on the border region.

New Texas Department of Public Safety troopers will soon work in the Rio Grande Valley and other areas along the Texas-Mexico border once they complete recruit school.

The recruit school is part of the Department of Public Safety’s hiring surge, which will eventually place 250 new troopers along the Texas-Mexico border. 

At the end of their probationary period, a trooper enrolled in the recruit school who has two or more years of previous law enforcement experience will earn a salary of $71,422 a year.

The yearly salary concerned some small police departments since the local agencies cannot afford to lose a handful of officers.

“Someone could go in with maybe a $20 or $30,000 pay raise into DPS and [small police departments] are not going to be able to compete with that,” said  Phil Ethridge, a professor of criminal justice at the University of Texas-Pan American.

Ethridge was approached by Hidalgo County Sheriff Eddie Guerra in November to analyze the salaries of his deputies in comparison with other law enforcement agencies.

The Department of Public Safety will limit the number of law enforcement officers accepted from each agency to two, the agency said in a statement to Action 4 News.

“This was done to minimize the impact on small departments, which was a concern that was expressed by some in law enforcement,” the statement read

Deputies jumping ship does not worry Guerra despite county law enforcement officers receiving $37,474 to $47,734 a year. However, he said the cap will benefit other departments.

“That would be fair on these smaller police departments. For some of them, they would’ve hurt,” Guerra said.

More than two officers per agency may be hired if an exception is made by the department head, such as Guerra himself.

It’s what McAllen Police Department’s Chief Victor Rodriguez decided to do.

“We are very proud of our officers,” Rodriguez explained. “We didn’t want to stand in the way of them achieving something that they want to do.”

The exception has allowed eight former McAllen police officers to be accepted into the Department of Public Safety’s recruit school.

The McAllen Police Department has made more exceptions for its officers than any other agency statewide.

Rodriguez supports the hiring surge as a means to “normalize” the border.

“This is moving the state guard and replacing them with the new hires, so we don’t want to get in the way of that,” Rodriguez said.

Rio Grande Valley recruits make up 23 out of 65.

Once recruits graduate from the academy, they will be placed in regions three or four, which encompasses the Texas-Mexico border.