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Amarillo police staff expanding

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Amarillo Police say they've been hiring several additional officers every year over the past five years. But they have more hiring to do in order to keep up with Amarillo's growing population.

The Amarillo Police Department is slowly expanding every year, but they say it'll be years before they can have an ideal number of officers. Currently they have 345, but the chief says they should have two for every thousand people. So that would be 380 for Amarillo.

Sergeant Brent Barbee says, "About 11 of those people are in the academy. They're not necessarily the people that are available to make calls." The ones in the academy count within the 345. Yet they can not respond to calls.

Police say over the past five years, they've added 5 to 12 officers each year. Barbee says, "The situation with adding people is that, of course, you have to pay for them. They have to be budgeted for. So every year, for the past few years, whenever the funds were available, the city would ask and the chief would ask. And the city would often authorize an increase in strength."

Barbee says it'd be a huge expense to hire 35 more officers at once. So they're looking to add 6 to 8 officers in each of the coming years to reach that 380 goal. He says when they can't improve by adding officers, "Then we try to improve by changing our tactics. And directing our patrol, and using our guys. And our resources as wisely as possible."

So they're working with what they have. Barbee says they're trying to increase staff by projecting how many people will quit or retire next year. He says, "We're very proactive about using officers in a manner that solves a problem before it turns into a call. Every call costs us time, costs the public money. So anything we can do to prevent that is great."

Response times have been ranging on average from 8 to 20 minutes in recent years, including emergencies. Amarillo Police say as they acquire more officers, they'll be able to respond more quickly.

Jessica Abuchaibe, NewsChannel 10. 

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