El Paso police seeing decline in applicants to become officers
The El Paso Police Department had 107 vacant positions as of Dec. 16.
The number of police officer jobs being filled across the country is on the decline. In El Paso the number of applications being submitted isn't necessarily the issue. It's the number of people making it through the academy application process.
Sgt. Enrique Carrillo says there are many factors that help explain why we are seeing this decrease.
"Social media is one big factor and the way we are portrayed in social media. Another challenge is that you have state and local and federal agencies competing for applicants. Not to mention, we lost about 147 officers across the country last year were killed in the line of duty. That's a factor and it weighs heavy on people's minds," Carrillo said.
On average EPPD receives around 5,000 applications per academy class and there are two academies a year. Out of those 5,000 applicants, between 70 and 80 recruits are selected to go through the academy.
To be specific, in the 123rd Class of 2018:
-- Applications received: 5,292
-- Passed the written test: 1,501
-- Passed physical fitness test: 1,002
-- Started the academy: 57
-- Graduated: 47
Only 47 out of 5,292 applicants became police officers. This is where we are seeing the problem of being short-staffed in El Paso.
Retention for police officers has also been a problem nationwide. "Last year we lost 37 officers through resignation and retirement," Carrillo said. "A lot of people probably found the job wasn't for them. The realities of the job hit you and you see what it's like on TV."
Carrillo says the process to become a police officer will not and cannot get easier. "It's a process and the process is there because we want to get the best qualified candidates to then get the best qualified officers in the field," he said. "The process of going through it is not simple and we don't want it to be."
With a shortage of officers, it's causing a slower response time and this is something Carrillo says can only get better if more police officers are in the field. "With more officers, we will then be able to respond faster to all calls, which is the goal. We want to get there and get to all of the calls and reduce the response time to all calls."
However Carrillo says they have still managed to reduce the crime rate by 12%. "If you look at the crime in this city compared to others, our crime rate is low," he said. "We are short-staffed but we have dedicated people working."
El Pasoans say they have noticed a drop in the number of officers on the streets over the last few years.
"I've noticed a decrease in police officers usually in the mornings. A few years ago there were a lot of police on the freeway or streets but now I don't see as much," Vania Ochoa said.
Ida Muniz moved here from Fort Worth. "I did notice there are not a lot of cops here in El Paso," Muniz said.
The department plans to increase its academy graduation numbers to average around 90 officers by 2023.