LPD grapples with staffing shortfall
Employment testing scheduled April 5
By LPR Staff
The Lockhart Police Department is facing a staffing headache this spring, as recent events have left the department five officers short.
Normal staffing levels at LPD call for eight dispatchers, one administrative assistant and 24 officers (including patrol, investigations, sup
ervisors and special assignments). Currently, according to LPD Chief Mike Lummus, the department is short three patrol officers and two investigators. However, Lummus said LPD is taking action both to bridge the gap and solve staffing woes.
“We have a civil service test scheduled for April 5,” he said. “The applicants that pass that test will go directly to the firing range for their weapons test, and if they pass both, we”ll start doing background checks and making offers.”
At press time, five of 24 potential applicants have returned application packets and are scheduled to take next week”s test.
In the meantime, LPD is utilizing remaining officers to cover patrol shifts and prioritizing investigations.
“The first thing you do when you get into a position like this is pull [officers off of] special assignments,” he said. “We”ve pulled back our warrant officer and one of our two school resource officers, and we have folks working overtime to make sure the shifts are covered and the police protection is there.”
Lummus said he will not take the other school resource officer off of assignment, and will ask other agencies for assistance if the situation worsens.
Lummus pledged that during the next budget cycle, he will focus his attention and resources on staffing and compensation.
“When I first came on last year, I asked the people in the department if they could hold on with the staff we had, because there were greater concerns with aging or non-existent equipment,” he said. “So that was my focus for this budget year. Now that the city has annexed property and increased the patrolling area, my primary focus is going to be on asking for more officers and working on how our officers are compensated.”
Lockhart Mayor James “Jimmy” Bertram is hopeful the upcoming testing will ease staffing issues at the department.
“We feel pretty strongly that we will receive more applications before the test, and that we will be able to do some hiring almost immediately afterward,” Bertram said when questioned about his position on LPD staffing. “And I trust Chief Lummus. He”s been in this business a long time, and he”s watching the officers to make sure the ones that are covering the overtime shifts are not overstressed.”
He also noted police department staffing is a problem statewide, not just in Lockhart.
“I was at a conference last month where mayors from across the state were discussing this very issue,” he said. “And almost everyone is experiencing the same kind of staffing shortfalls we are.”
Bertram said one theory on staffing problems was a decrease in the applicant pool.
“The Chief of Police from Grapevine talked to us about it, and he pointed out something I hadn”t thought of,” Bertram said. “Staffing is down because applications are down. And applications are down because so much of the normal applicant pool is overseas in the Middle East fighting the war.”
Despite the staffing shortage, Lummus said the city has seen no real increase in crime.
“Right now, we”re holding true in terms of our reporting numbers,” he said. “There”s no reason to believe that someone that wouldn”t normally have committed a crime will do so just because there isn”t a cop around right then. And although we could experience a problem if our staffing levels keep dropping, but I”m confident that after this testing, we can get it turned back around.”