By Hayley Kappes
Killeen Daily Herald
BELTON – Those considering a career in law enforcement will soon find incentive to apply at the Belton Police Department.
On Tuesday, the City Council approved the addition of a pay grade to civil service pay scales for the implementation of a police cadet program.
Police Chief Gene Ellis administered an entry-level police exam with discouraging results. Of the nine people who took the written test, only six passed.
Of those six, only three passed the physical agility test, and none passed background screening.
City Manager Sam Listi said the city only hired officers certified by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officers Standards and Education, and in the process, excluded candidates who would potentially make great police officers.
Previous applicants said they could not afford to go without five months of wages to attend police academy training, especially those who have served in the military.
"What I quickly realized was the small pool of candidates we had," said Ellis, who took over BPD in April.
"Human resources informed me we had a big pool of people getting out of the military."
The police cadet program would allow hiring noncertified applicants and paying them wages while they attend police academy.
Candidates must in turn agree to at least a four-year commitment, or reimburse the city for police academy tuition costs.
Ellis said the cadet program will cover $175 in police academy tuition and five months pay at a rate just below first-year, certified officers.
Mayor Pro Tem Marion Grayson said BPD faces competition for police officer applicants from larger surrounding cities in the county, which the program aims to improve.
"It's not like we're giving them anything for free," Grayson said. "They have to work for it."
Once an officer completes police academy, they would receive a salary increase.
Newly hired individuals will enroll in police academy programs at either Central Texas College in Killeen or Temple College, where Ellis said most police agencies send their cadets.
After graduation, officers will undergo BPD's field training program.
Ellis said police recruiting is a national problem, but BPD has an opportunity to drastically turn hiring practices around for a better applicant pool.
"Someone said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly, expecting different results," Mayor Jim Covington said.
"We're hoping to get different results by taking a different stab at the way we hire police officers."
Contact Hayley Kappes at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7559.