The Hutto Police Department has hired nine new officers since October due to an overwhelming recruitment response, Police Chief Jeffrey Yarbrough said in a presentation to the City Council Jan. 18. The boost in the department's ranks is expected to ease concerns related to traffic enforcement and response times.

In a nutshell

Yarbrough informed council the Hutto Police Department has faced staffing shortages in the past, with 16 vacancies in 2022. However, the recent hires have enabled the department to reorganize patrol areas and establish a dedicated traffic enforcement unit, meant to decrease how often officers are diverted on patrol.

“We had numerous officers that were hired, and they would be in the department for a short time, and they would transition out. We had a lot of bleeding, we had a lot of retention issues where we weren't able to keep officers,” Yarbrough said. “So we've been very fortunate to stop the bleeding, and we started the healing.”

Though the police department has made great strides toward maximum staffing goals, the agency is still looking to fill positions that would “re-establish previously collapsed essential units,” as indicated by city documents. These positions include a crisis intervention specialist, crime scene tech and information technology specialist.

City Council approved a request for a budget amendment allowing additional funds for the department to continue their recruitment process.

Also of note

Mayor Mike Snyder expressed gratitude to the police chief for his contributions to the department, highlighting that morale had been low in previous years.

“It's like nobody wanted to be a cop. They didn't want to come to work. They didn't want to be in Hutto,” Snyder said. “This is an example of good leadership, because part of the problem is not just pay, it's also how the people are treated. And so when word gets around, ‘Hey, you'll get treated with respect in Hutto, and you'll get paid also for doing that,’ it's like a one-two combination.”

The police department has worked with city staff over the past year to revamp the pay scale for lateral transferring police officers. In turn, the department has been able to recruit more experienced officers, resulting in a quick turnaround for getting officers out on patrol.

A newly hired cadet takes roughly 18 months before they are able to patrol on their own. A lateral transfer officer with experience can be out in the community in as little as 14 weeks, according to City Manager James Earp.

“The return on the investment is going to be tremendous with our community. ... We're looking at things that have a definitive need for our community,” Yarbrough said.

One more thing

The HPD has nearly completed a TPCAF accreditation program, wherein local law enforcement agencies in Texas voluntarily prove their compliance with 170 best law enforcement practices.

There are only 226 accredited police agencies in the state, Yarbrough said.

The police department continues to pursue education and training as leadership has taken recent courses related to diversity, cultural awareness and LGBTQ+ education.

As the state requires police departments to report annual racial profiling statistics, Yarbrough emphasized that the department has not received a single complaint related to racial profiling or violations of personal rights in the past year. Furthermore, out of nearly 6,000 arrests in 2023, there was no reported incident of excessive force.

“You deal with [individuals] in such a way to where they keep their dignity. You don't strip a person's dignity. You treat them with value, with respect and the dignity that they deserve,” Yarbrough said.