Policing is a profession where turnover is “high,” and the Killeen Police Department is no exception, data show.
Since 2012, 43 officers left the department, and documents from the city of Killeen, obtained through an open records request by the Herald, reveal the number includes officers who retired, resigned, were terminated or, in some cases, died.
Included in the 11 officers lost so far this year is Detective Charles “Chuck” Dinwiddie, who was killed in the line of duty earlier this month.
Losses in 2013 included Officer Robert “Bobby” Hornsby, who was killed in July while responding to a SWAT team call.
Of the department’s roughly 356 employees, about 256 are police officers.
The Waco Police Department — which serves a population of about 127,000 compared to Killeen’s population of more than 134,000 — lost 21 officers since 2012, including six last year and four so far in 2014.
Little current data is kept on the average turnover of police and sheriff’s departments statewide. Information from Texas Workforce Solutions categorizes the rate as “high” and estimates there are about 1,655 openings per year in Texas due to replacement based on 2012 data.
When it comes to employee turnover, KPD spokeswoman Ofelia Miramontes said the makeup of the community, which has many military families, could play a role.
“It’s a transient community,” she said.
Miramontes said many applicants are military or military connected, and that is something the department expects and handles on a case-by-case basis.
“I think we handle it quite well. It can be a challenge, but it’s not a challenge (the department) can’t deal with,” she said.
The data provided by the city also showed the department lost several high-ranking officers since 2012, including four sergeants, five lieutenants and three captains.
Miramontes said several officers retired, but said the department doesn’t necessarily see that as a loss.
“The way we see it, is that they invested their knowledge in the department, and applied it to the next generation,” Miramontes said. “We have not seen an adverse effect on the department because of that.”
The department closed applications for a new class of recruits in January, and expects to begin accepting another round of applications in June, according to the KPD recruiting Facebook page.
New recruits who pass the application process and KPD’s police academy start with the department as probationary police officers at a starting pay of $40,381 annually for their first year of employment. The department also offers a $3,000 sign-on bonus, alternate pay plan and other perks based on experience, according to the department’s website.
Killeen isn’t the only department looking to hire more officers.
The Austin Police Department wants to fill 30 spaces at a modified police academy beginning June 6.
Police Recruiting Sgt. Gizette Gaslin said the department does not see a lot of turnover, but needs more peace officers after the Austin City Council approved funding for 150 new officers in last year’s budget.
While departments like Killeen and Austin work to train and hire more officers, it will be awhile before they start patrolling the streets. The application and hiring process for Killeen is rigourous and can take up to six months, according to the department’s website.