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City Forms New Plan To Help Abilene Police Reach Full Staff

(Photo by Rick Tomlin/APD) Abilene Police Department's 54th graduating class.
(Photo by Rick Tomlin/APD) Abilene Police Department's 54th graduating class.

The Abilene Police Department has been understaffed for several years because officers are retiring faster than new recruits join the force. Abilene City Manager Robert Hanna said the APD is authorized to have 216 officers, but has only about 189 officers. The city is working on a new plan that will give APD the funds to hire more officers for the academy than what was originally set in the budget. It takes 18 months to train new hires because the Abilene police academy is longer and more rigorous than many other departments.

"So as long as an officer announces that they're going to retire prior to the academy and they leave prior to the start of the academy, so I’m not paying two people for the same position, we’re going to allow the chief to go ahead and hire that position," Hanna said.     

Hanna said the rate of retiring officers is growing, including the Baby Boomer generation and some officers in the generation after the Baby Boomers who may have already put in more than 20 years of service. The city has tried to hire recruits from other cities, but APD has high standards and a one-time bonus usually isn't enough to bring experienced officers in from other departments. Hanna said the lack of officers hasn't directly affected the city of Abilene, but it has become tough on the officers who have to fill in the gaps.

"I think it affects our officers’ morale more than anything else,” Hanna said. “If you're working 16-hour shifts and you're asking that person to make life and death decisions on a daily basis, at some point in time you say that’s not fair,” Hanna said. “The only thing that's going to solve that is getting more officers on the streets."

The current police academy is beginning their field training phase working on the streets of Abilene with other officers.