Killeen Police Department event aims to fill openings amid nationwide recruiting crisis

Published: Nov. 19, 2022 at 8:26 PM CST
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KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) - Police departments across the country are struggling to recruit officers in staff.

From generational differences to the public image of law enforcement to the danger of the profession, the International Association of Chiefs of Police reports 65% of U.S. agencies aren’t getting enough applicants to be police officers.

Locally, the Killeen Police Department is hoping to fill some of its openings as the city last week saw its 19th murder of the year.

On Sunday the department hosted its first recruiting event in three years. The department welcomed anyone interested in a position to KPD headquarters. Guests could step inside police vehicles, look at drones used by the department and see K-9 units.

“We’re trying to focus specifically on helping make the City of Killeen safer together,” recruiter and police officer Wilson Lopez said.

Right now the Killeen Police Department isn’t fully staffed. But the goal is to eventually get there with 265 sworn officers and 71 authorized civilian personnel. Officer Lopez said the biggest need at the department is more jail staff and communication specialists.

“We need people that are able to talk to them on the phone, de-escalate stuff on the phone so we can get the call in and have an officer go in and respond to it,” he said.

According to a study from the Police Executive Research Forum, the retirement rate was up 45% between April 2020 and March 2021 compared with the same period from the previous year. That’s something the Killeen Police Department has seen this year.

“We always have ups and downs,” officer Lopez said. “When it comes close to the end of their career, they leave or they leave to change career paths.”

Retired officers will hopefully soon be replaced by new recruits like Natasha Shepherd, who’s ready to get back into a public service role after leaving the navy.

“I guess it’s kind of who I am, like I joined the service to do the same thing,” she said. “Since I’ve been out I realized I’m not doing what I want to do.”