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Low pay, travel costs make recruiting challenge, Flores says
As police departments across the country are struggling to hire and retain new officers, Pearsall Police Chief Daniel Flores said his is no exception to the ongoing crisis.
Flores said the department currently has six vacancies and has 14 law enforcement officers, including himself. City councilors approved creating two new patrol officer positions during budget talks for 2024.
The police chief said he believes the problem is especially dire in Pearsall due to low start-up pay and lack of incentives offered, making it hard for him to compete with bigger cities in recruiting officers.
“I honestly think what the city needs to do is take a leap, like Dilley did,” Flores said in the council meeting on Tuesday, October 10. “They raised their starting salary to twenty-five dollars an hour. What we are doing with the studies is just trying to stay with the curve. What we need to do is take the leap and get ahead.”
Councilor Ramiro Trevino quizzed the police chief on why the department is struggling to retain and hire new recruits.
“What is going on,” the councilor questioned. “Is it recruitment? Conflict with the sheriff’s department? Because at the end of the day, the safety of the citizens is a priority.”
According to Pearsall City Manager Federico Reyes, the majority of the staff at the police department travel from out of town and gas prices have been a deterrent to applicants.
“We struggle with hiring them on and having them stay,” the city manager said. ”So what we are proposing is trying to help them with fuel. We are going to propose if they live inside the county we will allow them to take their vehicle home and if they live outside, to a certain distance, helping them with fuel.”
Councilor Sonia Hernandez supported the city manager’s claim, citing a recent conference with councilors from across the state expressing concerns over the lack of interest in officer recruitment.
Flores presented councilors with a monthly police report that showed a decline in incident reports, citations, warnings, and security checks.
According to the statistics presented by the police chief, in September the department had 68 offenses, there were 58 reported in August; 20 arrests were made in September, four more than in August; the department handled 129 incident reports as opposed to the 165 in August; officers issued 50 citations for September, 238 were issued in August; patrol issued 142 fewer warnings in September; officers conducted 20 security checks in September, there were 76 done in August.
Furthermore, the department had 611 calls for service in September and 510 in August. During September, officers were able to remove 4.4 grams of methamphetamine from the streets, two grams of THC, 3.29 grams of heroin and 3.5 grams of marijuana.
Councilor James Leal questioned the drastic drops in citations and warnings issued by patrol officers.
“I would like to see the number of narcotics off the streets increase,” Leal said. “Whatever we need to do on the council, if it is more funding or whatever.”
“I can assure you my officers are being vigilant and proactive,” the police chief said.
Leal said he supports the additional funding for the department but added a demand that officers take a more rigorous approach to remove narcotics.
“We can talk about numbers, pay raises, salaries, but we also have to see results.” Leal said. “We cannot go to the citizens and say we are going to give police officers twenty-five dollars an hour and not see results.”