MIDLOTHIAN – The Midlothian City Council approved a request by the Midlothian Police Department to establish a standardized pay schedule for Lateral – Entry Police Officer candidates.
The qualifications to utilize this lateral move requires incoming PD candidates have at least two years of full-time experience with a comparably sized municipality or agency that provides similar environmental and job-related experience. The candidate must also have completed an approved Academy and Field Training Program with no break in service longer than 12 months preceding application. The candidates will also be required to meet the current standards for a police officer applicant in Midlothian as well as the successful completion of the PD’s hiring process as established by the department.
With Mayor Pro Tem Justin Coffman, Place 4 councilmember Clark Wickliffe, and Place 6 councilmember Hud Hartson not in attendance at the council meeting this week, the item passed 4 – 0 successfully.
Police officers in the area move to competing agencies for many reasons. Staff notes to council indicated “Across the DFW metroplex, Police Agencies have adopted strategies to attract and hire experienced police officers. Among other benefits, the hiring of experienced officers reduces training time and costs and enables agencies to dramatically reduce the time from selection to deployment of an officer.”
Midlothian Police Chief Carl Smith said “Several years ago we brought an item to council about our lateral program, and we have had some successes through this program. In 2018/19 we hired about 18 officers through this program.”
Staying Competitive in Municipal Law Enforcement
Smith said this type of program makes it competitive in municipal law enforcement.
“We have resorted to stealing from each other quite effectively so what this allows us to do is take trained officers and place them in specialized positions,” Smith explained.
He added that even as new officers in various positions are hired externally, the department strives to “keep a balance in this particular hiring phase. As you see, there are considerations for not only their TCOLE certification, but also their college education and years of service. We did a lot of that evaluation so as not to conflict with our current internal staff after going through such an extensive evaluation of our pay we did not want officers coming in with less time making more than the officers who were already here.”
Smith said equity among current officers in the department and incoming officers is necessary.
While police officers coming into the department with existing experience does mean less training in some cases, a balance financially is also important.
Place 2 councilmember Walter Darrach asked, with this in mind, how the program will work overall regarding cost for officer replacement.
“Going into this budget year we had three openings so for attrition sake we budget three full positions for replacement,” Smith explained. “We look at the cost of equipment and uniforms specifically gauged to the body type; internal vest, ballistic vest, uniforms, the weapons we use can be transferred from officer to officer if there is attrition so in that sense – a lot of times we are using – like in this past year we had a five-year officer who had promoted to Corporal go to Highland Park. That officer was at a higher level and will likely negate some of these costs from this lateral program of the officers coming in.”
Indeed, there will be balancing and there could be a cost question if all the open positions were filled at the base level with laterals. However, Midlothian City Manager Chris Dick said, “In year two or year three it could catch you, we have not experienced that because with the attrition usually there is a savings in there somewhere that helps to offset.”
Darrach said, “Is there anything in place that would combat the lateral highers to not put us in a bad situation?”
Smith responded “That is why I manage the department and look at that. We look to make sure we are not creating internal inequity and also at the balance of how many we send to the academy and how many we keep in place.”
MPD Has Eleven Openings
Currently the Midlothian Police Department has 11 openings, three that were existing prior to the new fiscal year budget and eight that were added in the new budget, which was effective October 1.
Smith also said that the first choice for an open position is to promote from within when possible.
To date, the Midlothian Police Department has successfully used this program to attract 24 candidates. Staff notes reported “The program has allowed the Department to hire experienced officers in supervisory roles (three Sergeants and two Commanders), specialty positions including: Criminal Investigations, School Resource Officers, Traffic Officers, Commercial Vehicle Enforcement and Senior Patrol Officers.
“This [program] will give us some good latitude in bringing in some excellent officers to our organization,” Smith concluded.