El Paso Police Department faces officer shortage

EL PASO, Texas - According to the El Paso Police Department, its amount of sworn officers is the lowest since 1999, with 1,021 officers. Sgt. Ron Martin added this number could get even smaller, with around 22 percent of officers eligible for retirement as early as March.

"If they all decide to get tired of this job and say 'see ya,' El Paso is going to be hurt," explained Martin. "We're going to be in a mass panic trying to get more officers on the street.

Martin said what's typically thought of as a Borderland bragging right is instead adding insult to injury.

"Our detriment is that we are the safest city in the nation," explained Martin. "As long as you're No. 1, the city doesn't want to give you resources."

Martin said the city postponed academies several times over the last few years. City Council Representative Michiel Noe said this is due to the city not wanting to raise taxes in order to fund the academies. He also said the department was not recruiting quality candidates.

"It's better to have no cops out there than having a bad cop. A bad cop is a really bad idea," said Noe.

There are two academies scheduled for 2016 that will add a total of 80 officers to the force. Martin said that is still not enough, because an average of 50 officers leaves each year for several reasons, including moving to higher-paying agencies. He said it takes around one to two years for new officers to begin patrolling the streets because of required field training.

Martin said the expansion of the city, such as parts of West and Far East El Paso, is another issue.

"You still have different communities that need police service and it's not fair for a citizen to have to wait four, six, eight hours for a unit to get to their house when they call 911," Martin said.

Part of the city's budget for the next fiscal year will go to purchasing new patrol cars. Martin said this effort by the city will instead put officers in danger by splitting up partners and leaving them without backup.

"There needs to be a strategic plan in place to hire so many officers per year to build a force," said Martin. "You cannot just keep hiring the bare minimum to keep us at our staffing now."