HUTTO, TEXAS - As police departments around the country struggle with recruitment and retention, one small Texas town is taking big steps to keep its officers happy, and ultimately, its community.
Hutto City Council recently approved a roughly half-million dollar increase for the police department budget to put towards police pay.
This comes as the City’s population has almost doubled within the last decade alone.
"With that growth, we're not seeing the spikes in crime," said Chief Jeff Yarbrough.
The Chief contributes that to something he finds unique to Hutto.
"I think the pocket of civility and respect for law enforcement is here," said Chief Yarbrough. "There are places around this country that are struggling to find the support that they need for police officers. There are places where you have anti-police sentiment. There are places that you find that simply are defunding police. And then you have Hutto."
But recruitment and retention are issues impacting Hutto and departments all over the country for various reasons.
"And then with the recent legislature, HB 3, [regarding] school safety and the requirement to have armed personnel on campuses, now schools are moving toward hiring law enforcement officers," said Chief Yarbrough. "So that pool is drying up even more."
The Chief brought concerns to city council members who recently approved one of the more significant budget increases in recent years.
"It’s making us highly competitive, if not some of the most competitive, not only in our area but in the state of Texas when it comes to salaries," said Chief Yarbrough.
Along with the additional money to increase salaries, the additional funds will allow for a cost-of-living increase and 15% bonus pay for officers who work the night shift.
"One of the things that we've heard repeatedly is that I want to work there, but I can't afford to take a pay cut from other agencies," said Chief Yarbrough. "So this has given us the avenue that we need to move in a direction to where we're able to hire and retain quality officers who want to move to the city of Hutto and be able to afford to live in this community."
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Currently, pay for starting patrol officers in Hutto is about $61,000, and the Chief said they are still working out what the updated salaries will look like.
For the Austin Police Department, starting pay for officers is currently $65,411.
The City of Kyle, which has a more comparable population to Hutto of about 51,000, offers a starting salary for patrol officers of $63,925 as of October 1.
Beyond the dollar amount, the Chief voiced appreciation for the respect and support shown to the department by city leadership and the community.
He had a promise in return, even as Hutto continues to grow.
"The small-town feel is something that we want to keep, and we're going to keep that," said Chief Yarbrough. "You want a community where officers can come and be exactly what they were called to be in the profession, which is peace officers, which is a public servant, which is an advocate, a mentor for your community, a protector and a provider. So we do those things in this community because that is what our community expects, and they show day in and day out that they truly appreciate it."
The Hutto Police Department also recently launched a new app that allows the public to submit anonymous crime tips. To learn more, click here.