Austin police remain on pace to be staffed at nearly 100 percent by the end of the year, department leaders said Monday.
Assistant Chief Troy Gay said police managed to cut a 144-officer deficit by nearly half with a class of about 70 cadets who completed their training at the police academy in June.
Three months later, the department has 96 cadets spread between two classes that will graduate in December.
“Current vacancies, we’re sitting at 96, which is why if (the cadets) graduated today, we would be at 100 percent,” Gay said.
To hit that number, every cadet going through the academy would have to finish, and no officers currently employed by the department could leave.
Austin police can’t overhire, so the department will always have some vacancies as officers retire or leave the force.
Interim Police Chief Brian Manley said the department loses four or five officers every month through attrition, so the department won’t be fully staffed, but it will be very close when the next cadet classes earn their badges.
Gay put the number at about 99 percent, with an estimated vacancy count of 16 to 20 officers.
At the beginning of June, vacancies within the department were tallied at 144, police said.
The shortfall prompted police commanders to tap detectives and other nonpatrol officers for duty on patrol shifts while authorities ramped up recruitment efforts.
Gay said aggressive recruiting and a new online application process allowed the department to bring in a good number of cadets for its 2017 academies.
“We feel that we will be in a very good position in January,” Gay said. “The staffing levels have not been that low in a very long period of time.”
Gay said the increase in officers should have a positive effect on both response times and Austin’s crime rate.
According to police records, the violent crime rate rose about 3 percent during the first seven months of 2017, and the city saw an 11 percent increase in 2016 over 2015.
While authorities are working to right the ship and return the force to full power, the department plans to continue growing over the next five years from roughly 1,900 officers to 2,237. The department also plans to carve out an 11th police sector by 2022.
“I think that one of the best deterrents to crime is a visible police presence,” Manley said. “It sets the tone that there is a (high) likelihood of being caught.”