The Fort Worth Police Department has 211 officer vacancies, accounting for 11% of the department’s authorized strength.
Filling those vacancies is a priority for the department — an effort often akin to chasing a moving target, assistant chief Robert Alldredge told council members in a Nov. 7 presentation.
“There is not a hard-set plan of how we fill vacancies on a day-to-day basis,” he said.
That’s because vacancies are caused by myriad factors, including retirements, separations, transfers and promotions. In addition, about 80 officers are on limited duty or occupational leave each month because of injuries.
While there’s no silver bullet to reduce vacancies, Alldredge said, the department is taking several concrete steps to encourage more applicants and help them become successful officers. Among those steps is the creation of a designated recruiting unit, which police hope will increase eligible applicants by 50%.
Average size of recruit classes will be increased in the future, and training time has been reduced by several weeks. Tutors are now available to recruits, according to the presentation, and physical fitness requirements have been changed. The department has previously struggled with high recruit attrition rates, but Alldredge said the changes made so far are showing positive results.
How vacancies are filled
Alldredge stressed that additional factors complicate which vacancies are filled and when. School resource officer positions must be filled because of contractual obligations to local school districts, for example. And promotions are governed by timelines laid out in the Texas Local Government Code.
“It’s really kind of challenging for us to stand up here and tell you I’m going to fill up this unit on this day, I’m going to fill this other unit on another day,” he said.
As a recruit class gets close to completing its training, the police department’s executive staff looks at vacancies and determines:
- The priority of the position
- Negative impacts of leaving the position vacant
- Impacts of filling one position over another
- Total vacancy rate for each unit
- The overall goals of the department
“I want people to understand patrol is the backbone of our department,” Alldredge said. “We need patrol officers to be out there answering 911 emergency calls. That is our highest priority. We want to keep them as fully staffed as we can, without depleting the other units in our department, to be able to accomplish the mission that you guys have tasked us to do.”
The department will start training its next recruit class in spring 2024. Another one will start in July 2024, with an anticipated class size of 70-plus recruits.
If someone doesn’t pass on their first try, that doesn’t mean they’re out of luck. The department is committed to giving recruits clear feedback and helping them reapply, Alldredge said.
The department’s authorized staffing jumped from 1,816 to 1,875 after the City Council approved new positions in the 2024 budget. The department estimates being able to fill vacant positions from before that increase by August 2025; it estimates that the new positions would be filled by August 2026.
At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here. Emily Wolf is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter.