Criminologist Robert Taylor calls it a “perfect storm” off failing pension plans, low pay, and political turmoil. Police hiring is also becoming more difficult.
Houston police say there are solvable property crime cases with no one to solve them. Dallas officers are taking more time to respond to fewer emergency calls, and both cities are slower to get to non-emergency situations. Officials blame this on the dwindling number of officers in Texas’ two largest city police departments, the Texas Tribune reports. “At some point you get diminished returns, when you’re as lean as we are,” Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said. Across the U.S., police departments are griping about officer shortages paired with an uptick in violent crime, often pointing to what police leaders call a growing disinterest in law enforcement work. Houston and Dallas have other problems. Failing pension plans recently caused experienced cops in both cities to jump ship, and Dallas continues to lose young patrol officers who shift to higher-paying suburban departments.
Since 2011, Dallas’ police force has shrunk by more than 600 people. More than 40 percent of that drop has been since 2016, and officials continue to report large numbers of departures every month. Houston lost hundreds of officers to retirement this year before its police pension plan changed in July, said police union president Ray Hunt. The diminishing ranks come as the cities’ populations grow and violent crime rates creep up from rare lows. “It’s kind of like the perfect storm,” said criminologist Robert Taylor of the University of Texas at Dallas. “You got failing pension plans, you have low pay, and then you have all sorts of political turmoil doing the job of enforcing in major cities.” Police leaders say hiring is harder, too. Texas Municipal Police Association director Kevin Lawrence blames a lack of interest in law enforcement work on increased community and media scrutiny after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson.