Police Vacancies Add To Concern About Smaller Number Of Officers On San Antonio Streets | Texas Public Radio

Police Vacancies Add To Concern About Smaller Number Of Officers On San Antonio Streets

Jun 12, 2017

Correction:  In this story Texas Public Radio used information from a San Antonio Police Association report and a Governing Magazine article. Each organization had utilized  the 2015 FBI Uniform Crime Report. We consulted that Report as well. 

Note: The San Antonio Police Association performed the above rankings based on the FBI data. Using the analysis in Governing Magazine San Antonio's rank would be 371. SAPD says the rankings have no real validity.

We published the chart to the left titled “Police Officers Per Capita Rank Among 371 Cities”    based on those resources. The chart lists the number of police officers in certain major cities in relation to a specific number of residents. The FBI Report and the others, begin their listings with cities with the highest number of officers per capita. Our report refers to this listing as a “ranking”.  It is not a ranking. The word “ranking” implies a value judgment about quality, with the best listed at the top.  The order in which cities are listed is based solely on a number count. Our report also quotes Professor Alex Del Carmen, an expert in criminology, in relation to the current number of vacancies in the San Antonio Police Department.  We stated that his concerns “were underscored by the 2015 FBI statistics that show San Antonio ranks 362 among 371 cities – almost rock bottom for the number of officers it has per 10,000 residents”.  Numerically that is accurate but the correct number of officers any city should have is based on many factors.  Texas Public Radio plans to do further reporting on this important issue.      

 

Our Story:

The San Antonio Police Department has one of the lowest numbers of officers per capita of any department in the country.  That’s according to statistics provided in a 2015 FBI Uniform Crime Report. Right now the department also has more than its usual number of vacancies, which has prompted some law enforcement professionals to worry. 

Last October, 40 cadets of 2016 Delta Class entered the San Antonio police academy. In May, just 23 graduated.

That means 43-percent left the training program or washed out.

It’s the latest statistic linked to department staffing that’s raising a red flag.  

“A lot (of the recruits) are obviously not ready,” said Mike Helle, President of the San Antonio Police Officers Association.

"The last two classes have had over a 40 percent attrition rate which is pretty significant from the normal 13 percent.  So you have to ask yourself:  what are we not doing as a department to give them the tools and resources to position themselves to be successful?"

(Note:  SAPD reports the last two cadet classes had a 44 percent and a 33 percent attrition rate. The two previous classes had attrition rates of 15 percent and 20 percent.) 

The recent cadet failure rate is a critical element in the bigger picture:  the number of SAPD officer vacancies and the low number of officers per capita on San Antonio streets.

Note: The San Antonio Police Association performed the above rankings based on the FBI data. Using the analysis in Governing Magazine San Antonio's rank would be 371. SAPD says the rankings have no real validity.

The San Antonio Police Department right now says it has 196 fully trained officers. That means 8 percent of authorized positions aren’t filled.  ( Note: the SAPD says the vacancy rate is lower, but that's because it counts cadets in training who may or may not graduate.)

“This is very alarming and very concerning for the community at large,” said Prof. Alex Del Carmen, Executive Director for the School of Criminology, Criminal Justice and Strategic Studies at Tarleton State University.  He’s trained police chiefs and consulted with departments across the state.  

Prof. Alex Del Carmen is Executive Director of the School of Criminology, Criminal Justice and Strategic Studies, at Tarleton State University.

FBI statistics for 2015 list San Antonio 362  among 371 cities- almost rock bottom- for the number of officers it has per 10,000 residents.

Compared to San Antonio’s 15 officers, Houston has 23; Dallas has 27; Washington, D.C. has 57 per 10,000 people. That’s almost four times the number of officers per capita that San Antonio has. 

Prof. Del Carmen says the sparse number of officers may not be the reason homicides in San Antonio shot up last year, but he believes the numbers matter.

“The bottom line is the fewer police officers you have in the streets the more it’s going to affect the fear of crime among citizens,” he observed.  "It’s going to take them twice as long to get a police officer on their front lawn to take down a report or to talk to an officer period.  And that is going to affect how fearful or not they are about being able to walk their dog at five o’clock in the afternoon.  And that, by the way, is more significant than any crime rate you would ever show to any community member." 

Texas Public Radio has requested police response time data from the department. 

Police Association President Mike Helle believes it will show officers are responding pretty quickly when citizen lives are in jeopardy, but not so quickly to the majority of calls.

“If you’re’ being shot at, stabbed, we are going lights and sirens to your house.  But anybody that’s ever been  involved in an accident in San Antonio-  you’ve probably waited 45 minutes plus for  a policeman to get there to help you with your accident. And it’s not because we don’t want to get there.  It’s just we don’t have enough people to get there,” Helle said.

Helle believes the high number of vacancies is the result of City Hall administrators delaying some training classes, and not anticipating the large number of baby boomers retiring.

Helle says rookie salaries may matter.  Our check found that starting pay for officers in San Antonio is somewhat less than Austin, Houston and Dallas.  But Helle says benefits are often better.

Chief McManus believes the staffing picture will be much different by the end of the year.

“We’re catching up from a couple years ago when we delayed some classes.  We’ll have another class in July.  We hope to have a good 50 officers in that class.  That will put us down to where our normal vacancy level has been over the years, which is between 50 and 80.”

McManus says he also is comfortable the number of officers per capita in his department.

New officers graduating in the 2016 Delta Class say they weren’t deterred by a perception plaguing many departments, that policing has become too dangerous.

fficer Pedro Carvajal poses with his mother at his graduation from the San Antonio police academy.
Credit Shelley Kofler / Texas Public Radio

“I do it for the community, for the people,” said Denise Garcia, 5-foot-2 and standing tall.  Both she and Pedro Carvajal are excited about being officers in San Antonio, where they grew up.

“You know the community.  You’re part of it, and that will help you reinforce the relationship with the department and the community itself,” he said.

The City of San Antonio has a media campaign to recruit other promising cadets, and it’s looking for candidates across the state.  Del Carmen says San Antonio needs to become even more aggressive in attracting recruits, and quickly. He says it takes time to train officers, and turning around the numbers is critical.

ORIGINAL STORY PUBLISHED JAN. 6:

The San Antonio Police Department has one of the lowest numbers of officers per capita of any department in the country.  That’s according to statistics provided in a 2015 FBI Uniform Crime Report. Right now the department also has more than its usual number of vacancies, which has prompted some law enforcement professionals to worry. 

Last October, 40 cadets of 2016 Delta Class entered the San Antonio police academy. In May, just 23 graduated.

That means 43-percent left the training program or washed out.

It’s the latest statistic linked to department staffing that’s raising a red flag.  

“A lot (of the recruits) are obviously not ready,” said Mike Helle, President of the San Antonio Police Officers Association.

"The last two classes have had over a 40 percent attrition rate which is pretty significant from the normal 13 percent.  So you have to ask yourself:  what are we not doing as a department to give them the tools and resources to position themselves to be successful?"

(Note:  SAPD reports the last two cadet classes had a 44 percent and a 33 percent attrition rate. The two previous classes had attrition rates of 15 percent and 20 percent.) 

The recent cadet failure rate is a critical element in the bigger picture:

Note: The San Antonio Police Association performed the above rankings based on the FBI data. Using the analysis in Governing Magazine San Antonio's rank would be 371. SAPD says the rankings have no real validity.

the number of SAPD officer vacancies and the low number of officers per capita on San Antonio streets.

The San Antonio Police Department right now says it has 196 fully trained officers. That means 8 percent of authorized positions aren’t filled. ( Note:  the SAPD says the vacancy rate is lower, but that's because it counts cadets in training who may or may not graduate.)

“This is very alarming and very concerning for the community at large,” said Prof. Alex Del Carmen, Executive Director for the School of Criminology, Criminal Justice and Strategic Studies at Tarleton State University.  He’s trained police chiefs and consulted with departments across the state.  

Prof. Alex Del Carmen is Executive Director of the School of Criminology, Criminal Justice and Strategic Studies, at Tarleton State University.

His concern about the vacancies is underscored by FBI statistics from 2015  that show San Antonio ranks almost rock bottom among cities for the number of officers it has per 10,000 residents.  In one presentation of the FBI numbers by the San Antonio Police Association, the Alamo City ranked 362nd.  In another analysis by Governing Magazine it ranked 371st.

Compared to San Antonio’s 15 officers, Houston has 23; Dallas has 27; Washington, D.C. has 57 per 10,000 people. That’s almost four times the number of officers per capita that San Antonio has. 

Prof. Del Carmen says the sparse number of officers may not be the reason homicides in San Antonio shot up last year, but he believes the numbers matter.

“The bottom line is the fewer police officers you have in the streets the more it’s going to affect the fear of crime among citizens,” he observed.  "It’s going to take them twice as long to get a police officer on their front lawn to take down a report or to talk to an officer period.  And that is going to affect how fearful or not they are about being able to walk their dog at five o’clock in the afternoon.  And that, by the way, is more significant than any crime rate you would ever show to any community member." 

Texas Public Radio has requested police response time data from the department. 

Police Association President Mike Helle believes it will show officers are responding pretty quickly when citizen lives are in jeopardy, but not so quickly to the majority of calls.

“If you’re’ being shot at, stabbed, we are going lights and sirens to your house.  But anybody that’s ever been  involved in an accident in San Antonio-  you’ve probably waited 45 minutes plus for  a policeman to get there to help you with your accident. And it’s not because we don’t want to get there.  It’s just we don’t have enough people to get there,” Helle said.

Helle believes the high number of vacancies is the result of City Hall administrators delaying some training classes, and not anticipating the large number of baby boomers retiring.

Helle says rookie salaries may matter.  Our check found that starting pay for officers in San Antonio is somewhat less than Austin, Houston and Dallas.  But Helle says benefits are often better.

Chief McManus believes the staffing picture will be much different by the end of the year.

“We’re catching up from a couple years ago when we delayed some classes.  We’ll have another class in July.  We hope to have a good 50 officers in that class.  
That will put us down to where our normal vacancy level has been over the years, which is between 50 and 80.”

McManus says he also is comfortable the number of officers per capita in his department.

New officers graduating in the 2016 Delta Class say they weren’t deterred by a perception plaguing many departments, that policing has become too dangerous.

Officer Pedro Carvajal poses with his mother at his graduation from the San Antonio police academy.
Credit Shelley Kofler / Texas Public Radio

“I do it for the community, for the people,” said Denise Garcia, 5-foot-2 and standing tall.  Both she and Pedro Carvajal are excited about being officers in San Antonio, where they grew up.

“You know the community.  You’re part of it, and that will help you reinforce the relationship with the department and the community itself,” he said.

The City of San Antonio has a media campaign to recruit other promising cadets, and it’s looking for candidates across the state.  Del Carmen says San Antonio needs to become even more aggressive in attracting recruits, and quickly. He says it takes time to train officers, and turning around the numbers is critical.