Crime Watch: APD puts detectives on patrol to help officer shortage

APD detectives will soon suspend their casework and go out on patrol as part of a stop-gap program to help relieve a staffing shortage. The department has more than 120 vacancies.

In this week’s Crime Watch, FOX 7's Noelle Newton looks into the problem.

"Massive career fair. John Jay is the number one criminal justice university in the country,” said APD Lt. Brent Dupre.

Recruiting Lt. Brent Dupre walks us through one of the most recent stops his officers have made as the pressure mounts to fill 120 some-odd vacancies.

"We're going to new places. We're going to more places,” said Dupre.

In addition to doubling the recruiting staff, the department has added five positions to help expedite the processing of applications. A marketing firm is helping pro-bono to set APD apart from the competition. Right now it's steep.

"Nationwide we're looking at some challenges in filling our ranks. We're looking at different ways to think outside the box to attract people,” said Dupre.

While Dupre and his officers pound the pavement, the department will implement a stop-gap program to help pad patrol shifts.

521 detectives and officers in non-patrol assignments will now be required to work on patrol three weeks out of the year. That includes such violent crime units as homicide, sex crimes and robbery.

"It's a challenging time right now for the policing profession,” said Assistant Chief Brian Manley. “You know for several reasons, I think there is a lot of scrutiny going on law enforcement right now that is going on across the country. I think with the economy, being as good as it's going right now there's a lot of other job opportunities out there. It's easy to recruit police officers in a down economy."

Assistant Chief Brian Manley says the cases detectives will have to postpone while they work their patrol shifts will be handled just like any time an officer goes on vacation. He doesn't see any problem developing for investigations.

In fact, he sees the specially-trained detectives on the streets as a benefit.

"These detectives, during the week that they're out there on patrol, can share their knowledge with these officers. That will better equip these officers when they show up on a crime scene to ask different questions, to gather different evidence.  And so I think there is a really good educational component that comes along with this program. The detectives will also stay better in tune to staying up to what's going on on patrol and I think it will make them better at what they do,” said Manley.

Austin Police Association President Ken Casaday is less reserved about the situation.

"We have shifts now with four and five people assigned to it. It's absolutely not acceptable,” said Casaday.

He says recruiting nationwide is in crisis mode.

"If we can't turn that around, all major cities in this country probably within three to four years will be in crisis mode because we won't have enough officers to patrol the streets,” said Casaday.

Manley believes Austin is in better shape than some cities as we continued to hire through the recession.

91 cadets are currently in training.Dupre is aiming to find 25 applicants to attend a modified academy this summer and between 80 to 100 for the fall.

His officers head to Florida next week likely joined by other departments with the same needs.

"We all have this we're in this together mentality,” said Dupre.

The patrol staffing program starts May 15th.The department is also looking to civilianize positions, further freeing up more officers to go out on patrol.

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