With an extra 14,000 people becoming Lewisville residents through the annexation of Castle Hills in two years, the city has hired an outside firm to look at police department staffing.
The incorporation of the master-planned community in 2021 prompted the need for the analysis, City Manager Donna Barron said.
“That’s a real driver as far as timing,” she said. “We are annexing a small city, and we need to really sit back and look at what that beat structure needs to look like and [what]staffing [needs to be].”
This is the first time the staffing study will be done by someone other than city staff.
The study is being done by Matrix Consulting Group, which has done similar studies for hundreds of law enforcement agencies, including those in Austin, San Antonio and Southlake.
The firm is being paid up to $80,000 to look at everything from detective caseloads to dispatch operations to patrol.
Assistant City Manager Melinda Galler said a staffing analysis is hard to do internally, and several different methods should be used.
Calculating staffing levels based on the number of officers per population is common practice throughout the country, but Galler said there are more factors that need to be considered, such as where and when crimes occur.
“[Officers by population] is not necessarily a good measure,” Galler said. “Maybe we need more officers at a certain time of the day, or maybe the time the shifts start needs to be changed.
“All that data [from the report]will help drive those decisions and make sure our scheduling is appropriate and that our deployment of our officers is at the days and times that are most effective,” she said.
The findings of the report are expected to be back in June so city staff can incorporate them into next year’s budget. The city will have its annual budget workshop in August with the budget effective Oct. 1.
Barron said hiring a third party will add credibility to the results.
“I think the study is going to help this and say to people, ‘Don’t feel unsafe because we are staffed appropriately, and we are an innovative and effective police department, and we are safe here in Lewisville.’”
A struggle to keep a full staff
Lewisville Police Chief Kevin Deaver said the police department has struggled to stay fully staffed. He recalls it was only fully staffed for a couple of weeks two years ago.
“We had some recent retirements, and in last year’s budget process we increased the number of positions we had, so we had to fill those on top of the ones that were vacant already,” he said.
Seven of the 12 vacancies listed in May were for new positions within the police department.
“Three of those were for the school district—that’s huge—and we added supervisorial positions,” Galler said. “We wouldn’t be as many down if we haven’t added those positions.”
She also noted that several recent retirements involved officers hired at the same time.
“We are 20-25 years out from when the city had that big growth spurt, and a bunch of officers came in during that time,” she said.
The city added a staffing recruitment position in this year’s budget to help fill those positions, Barron said.
“For the first time we have a position that focuses on recruitment,” she said. “She is citywide, so she deals with other departments as well. But I think she has had some real impact.”
Deaver said the city has also benefited from its lateral program, which allows for police officers to transfer into the department with the years of service they have acquired elsewhere. Those officers are eligible only if they worked for a department in a city that had a population of 50,000 or more.
New police officers typically require 12 to 13 months of training. The lateral program puts them on the streets in Lewisville faster.
“I’m in the process now of expanding our lateral entry program to include some of those officers from smaller agencies that were excluded previously,” Deaver said. “We feel like that will get some of those experienced officers that may be from smaller towns that would like to work for a larger city.”
Despite the vacancies, Deaver said his department has maintained call response times and the minimum staffing required for each shift, which ranges from 10-12 officers.
“Our goal is to always be more proactive rather than reactive,” he said. “We will pull resources from other areas such as our street gang unit or have officers work overtime to make sure.”