Houston area department attracts police officers from Victoria

Aug. 2, 2012 at 3:02 a.m.
Updated Aug. 3, 2012 at 3:03 a.m.

At least four officers from the Victoria Police Department are leaving for a startup department near Houston.

Cypress Fairbanks Independent School District, which is hiring 40 officers this summer, has received applications from as many as five other Victoria police officers.

Travis Hanson, a former patrol officer for the Victoria Police Department, turned in his gear July 27. He is moving his family to Houston for the new job.

Hanson said he left Victoria because of what he considers a noncompetitive pay scale. The City Council decided to move forward with a proposed pay plan on July 30 to address the problem of senior officers resigning.

"I have been there 11 years now and I'm making just a couple thousand over what a new recruit is making," Hanson said about his time in Victoria. "Unless a leadership position opens, you are stuck at a senior patrol officer salary until you leave."

However, Hanson said the proposed plan - which includes a 3-percent across-the-board raise and adjusting salaries to make them competitive - might retain officers in the department.

"I have been talking to officers who are staying here, and it sounds like a good deal," Hanson said. "I think the city is on the right track."

Cy-Fair Police Chief Alan Bragg said three officers from Victoria are starting with the school district Monday and two more are in the final stages of the application process and have been offered positions.

Police Chief JJ Craig said four officers have resigned for jobs at Cy-Fair.

Hanson, however, said he knows of at least five more Victoria officers applying to the school district.

Craig said staffing patrol - the core mission of the department - has not been an issue yet despite the many departures.

"That is what we have been talking about for the last several meetings," Craig said. "But we are getting to a point where overall staffing is an issue. We are looking at supporting the core mission of the organization and will look at every contract with special interests."

The contract with Victoria ISD came up, for example, and Craig said they are meeting with school officials to rework that contract to satisfy both the district and the department.

Craig said the department usually does not lose patrol officers this rapidly, but Cy-Fair is a special situation because it is a new nearby department, hiring for numerous positions.

Bragg said the number of officers they have hired from Victoria - three of the 17 new workers starting Monday - speaks volumes about the quality of officers in Victoria.

"We are being very selective and we are looking for people who are tens," Bragg said. "If they aren't tens in the first round of hire, we are passing over them."

Bragg said his department received 537 applications for the first wave of hires.

Matt Williams, a captain at Cy-Fair and former police chief for Victoria College, spent 12 years as a patrol officer with the Victoria Police Department.

He said the department is known throughout the state for training the best officers, and that encourages other departments to recruit from Victoria.

"Are they well trained? Yes. Do they get a lot of experience very early in their career? Yes. Does that make them very marketable? Yep," Williams said. "It is a double-edged sword."

Bragg said Cy-Fair will eventually staff 90 to 100 officers.



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