AUSTIN (KXAN) — As law enforcement falls under increased scrutiny, and falls under attack, people willing to put on the uniform for a career are becoming harder to find. Recent Austin Police Academy graduating classes have only been a little more than half full according to Austin Police Association President Ken Casady.
“A lot of people look and say ‘why would I want to go into that profession,’” said Casaday.
Larger departments in Dallas and Houston are hiring more officers, making it more difficult for Austin to find quality applicants. But Casaday said the national environment and disrespect towards law enforcement make it that much more difficult. A typical graduating class introduces 50-60 new officers to the force, but recent classes have been closer to 30-40 according to Casaday.
“If we get too much further behind, it will create safety issues.”
Austin is among the highest paying departments in the state, still only the very best applicants ultimately become officers. In the last five years, APD has received 3,477 applications and have hired about 450 new officers.
But despite struggling to fill graduating classes, Casaday said the APA does not want to see relaxed requirements or standards.
“”There is no reason to lower standards. When you lower standards you get a sub-par officer and we do not want that.”
Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said recruiting is a challenge across the country.
“With the current climate, police are being portrayed as the villain and not the good guys,” Acevedo said. “We are able to recruit, but we have to work a lot harder at it.”
Chief Asks for Public Support of Officers
Days after what he called an “unprovoked assassination” of a Harris County deputy, Acevedo emailed Austin Police Department officers and encouraged them to be vigilant, practice good officer safety and be aware of their surroundings. But he also made a plea to the public: “We need people to join us in lifting up the vast majority of police officers.”
Acevedo said APD and most departments in the country try to identify, fire and prosecute the officers in the country who do not abide by the standard of care expected by law enforcement. But he said those officers are in a very small minority.
“We are being portrayed as a profession that is broken when we, in fact, are like the rest of society. We are an imperfect profession that has officers that do not belong. In our department, when we identify those officers, we get rid of them.”
Police Appreciation Event Planned
A Williamson County Constable is planning an event to show APD and other law enforcement they are appreciated by a “silent majority.” Constable Robert Chody created a Facebook page for the Sept. 19 event “Police Lives Matter” in Austin.
“I want law enforcement to see that their community does care,” said Chody, a former APD officer. “It just takes people to put an event like this together. People do care and people will come out to show support.”
The event will begin at APD headquarters and include a march to the state capital. The Facebook page had garnered nearly 2,000 people planning to attend. Chody hopes city leaders will also take part.
“It is comforting. I think law enforcement is proud to see the silent majority is speaking up and the anti-police crowd is not happy about it.”
In response to the event, a Facebook page created by “Black Lives Matter” in Austin will hold an event on their own the very same day called “Rally Against Police Brutality.”