APD sees increase in applicants, different case for TCSO

Police departments around the country are struggling to fill positions. Some attribute the staggering number of applicants to tension between communities and officers, but Austin is seeing a different trend.

About a year and a half ago, the Austin Police Department was facing a staffing shortage. Assistant Chief Chris McIlvain said the department had up to 170 vacancies, but he believes those positions will be filled by the beginning of 2018 thanks to a new focus on recruiting.

That's not the case at the Travis County Sheriff's Office, however.

Sheriff Sally Hernandez just took office about a week ago, but she's already trying to solve a staffing problem at the Travis County Sheriff's Office.

“It is a concern for me and we are already starting working on a recruiting department where we focus resources on recruiting and getting people into place,” said Hernandez.  

By filling a few dozen positions, Hernandez hopes to give deputies some down time back.

“It's time to end the mandatory overtime and give our staff some relief,” Hernandez said. 

But finding the right people for the job is not always easy, especially with so many competing law enforcement agencies in the area.

“It's tough because, I mean, everybody's recruiting for good officers and so it's going to take dedicated resources to really focus on recruiting and that's my plan,” said Hernandez. 

Meanwhile, the Austin Police Department has successfully increased their pool of applicants over the last year and even more so in just the last 30 days. They said switching from a handwritten application to an online system in December made a drastic difference.

“What we saw on day one was a 360 percent increase in our applications, so what that tells me is we were way behind the curve when it came to technology,” said Assistant Chief Chris McIlvain with the Austin Police Department. 

While tensions are running high after controversial police shootings around the country, Austin police said they have a lot of support in the community. An increase in ambush attacks on officers hasn't scared away their recruits either.

“I think what we're seeing is actually folks that want to make a difference. They see what's going on and, rather than being fearful and not wanting to be a part of that situation, I think what we're seeing is folks that are coming out and saying I want to be a part of the solution,” McIlvain said. 

Recruiters at APD have stepped up their game in the last year as well.

“In 2015 our recruiters attended 99 events across the country in 2016 they attended 203 so an 105% increase in the number of events alone,” said McIlvain. 

The department said no matter what happens with the number of applications coming in, there's one thing they will never do: lower their standards.

APD has been successful at attracting more minority and female applicants as well. McIlvain said from 2015 to 2016 they had a 107 percent increase in women applicants, a 187 percent increase in African American applicants and Hispanic applicants climbed 77 percent.

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