El Paso Police officers will be eligible for retirement this year
More than 230 El Paso police officers are eligible for retirement this year, after serving more than 20 years on the force. Sgt. Ron Martin said this is would a major public safety problem.
"My biggest fear is 250 police officers retire within a year. That would decimate our department," Martin said.
Martin is the president of the El Paso Municipal Police Association. He said there are 1,040 officers on the force. That's the smallest it's been in 20 years.
"It's bad enough as it is on response times and the amount of officers that are working a particular part of town," Martin said.
According to the FBI, the Southwest averages 2.2 officers per 1,000 people. Martin said the shortage is due to the city cutting the police academies year after year. With around 680,000 people in El Paso, the department should have around 1,500 officers. Martin said doing more with less is difficult and this year in particular has put massive pressure on the force.
"You're changing days off, you're changing start times. We have special events we have other stuff we do and eventually you're going to get a lot of burnout in the officers," Martin said.
Two police academies this year will add about 80 officers to the force, but it's not only about quantity, it's about quality. Martin said the department needs to do what it can to hold onto El Paso's finest.
"You also have to start thinking of the morale issue. Are my guys getting enough time off? Are they getting the sleep at night? Are they having marital issues? Are they having drinking problems? It's bigger picture," said Martin. "It's not just 'I need a body at work,' you also have to think of the human aspect of it."
Over the next four years, close to 200 additional officers could become eligible for retirement. Martin said it could take five to 10 years to get the force to where it needs to be, if the city stops cutting the department's budget.