by ANDY SEVILLA
Kyle Council Members are not expected to hire any new police officers in the upcoming fiscal year, despite increased calls for service along with a recent study by the Texas Municipal Police Association (TMPA) that ranked Kyle in last place in per capita staffing compared to similar cities.
Kyle’s booming population of nearly 30,000 should have at least 58 sworn police officers according to general national standards; that’s two officers for every 1,000 residents.
The most recent U.S. Census Bureau estimates show Kyle’s 2011 population at 29,293.
TMPA representative Noel Johnson, who presented council members last Tuesday with a staffing assessment commissioned by the Kyle Police Association and the Kyle Police Employee Association, said Kyle needed close to 64 officers for its population and call volume, and urged council to put forth a plan that would address staffing deficiencies.
Kyle Police Chief Jeff Barnett said calls for service have more than doubled in the last year alone, and he expects those numbers to increase as Kyle continues to attract new businesses and residents.
Johnson said he understood impending budget crunches, but recommended council members fund between five and seven new police officers per year, for the next five years.
Kyle presently has 35 sworn officers and a vacant police officer position, which totals a potential of 36 sworn police officers.
Though funding is an issue, city officials made it clear they want law enforcement to have the support they need.
“We’re growing faster than our budget grows,” Mayor Pro-Tem Diane Hervol said.
In a budget workshop last week, council members decided to abolish the vacant police officer position, and instead fund a full-time motorcycle police officer position to include all support and equipment costs.
Kyle City Manager Lanny Lambert had proposed two full-time motorcycle police officers.
“We’re always glad that our city council, and city manager, and mayor, are supportive of our employees and that they were willing to listen to the report as presented by Johnson,” Barnett said. “…According to the survey presented by TMPA and both Kyle police associations, our staffing numbers are lower than the agencies that were considered in that report. We obviously want to be able to provide the best law enforcement services possible, and more staff would certainly help us do that. But at the end of the day, we will work with what staff we’re given during the annual budget process.”
TMPA compared Kyle to 16 Texas cities that are close in size/population, or cities already deemed comparable by council members, according to the staffing assessment.
The study illustrated Kyle with the lowest number of sworn officers per capita at 1.28 officers per 1,000 residents.
The study shows Kyle’s population at 28,576 in 2010, which was retrieved from state demographer lists; however, the U.S. Census Bureau puts Kyle’s population at 28,016 for the same year.
Data in the study show that Kyle has fewer sworn officers than Round Rock, Georgetown, and Pflugerville, which have 1.29, 1.54, and 2.56, sworn officers per 1,000 residents, respectively. San Marcos did not provide numbers for the study, according to the report.
Lambert conceded that Kyle had lower police staffing per capita, but said that he suspected Kyle also had a lower crime rate, because the city is more of a residential community and less commercial and industrial.
At the last budget workshop, council members decided to fund several new hires for the police department, to include: one part-time dispatch support position at a cost of $14,9770; two full-time dispatch support positions at a cost of $112,920; one full-time motorcycle police officer, including support and equipment, at a cost of $92,711.50; and one full-time animal control officer at a cost of $52,375.
At the same meeting, council members also reduced overtime compensation for dispatch support services by $45,040, because the new hires are expected to fill the time. Council members also reduced overtime compensation for police operations, and approved the removal of $20,000 from the accumulated Police Forfeiture Fund to purchase equipment for the new motorcycle police officer hire.
The city also expects an increase of $108,000 in court fines generated by the new motorcycle officer.
“We’re happy to work with whatever the council and the mayor are able to fund,” Barnett said about the new hires. “…The city of Kyle is a fast-paced and quickly growing community, that does have a high expectation for city services, among those are police services, and with the increasing number of business and new residents, the need for police services is increasing as well.”
Lambert said he intends to pursue increased staffing in future budgets.
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