San Marcos police staffing comes into question after deadly shooting

First responders on Valero Drive in San Marcos following the deadly shooting of a San Marcos police officer. The suspect in the shooting was also shot. (KXAN Viewer Photo)
First responders on Valero Drive in San Marcos following the deadly shooting of a San Marcos police officer. The suspect in the shooting was also shot. (KXAN Viewer Photo)

SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) — One day after Kenneth Copeland became the first officer in the San Marcos Police Department’s history to be shot and killed in the line of duty, questions are coming up about the department’s staffing. Copeland was serving an arrest warrant for a violent crime on what would have been his day off.

KXAN heard a message from the chief Monday night that begged for a closer look.

“He worked just about every day off, to provide for his kids, and because he knows we’re short-handed and we need the help,” San Marcos Chief of Police Chase Stapp said.

San Marcos police say they do have some vacancies, due to retirement and other factors. Currently, officers work overtime to fill in the gaps, but the department says shifts are typically posted as openings and officers just sign up. The shifts are voluntary, not mandatory, assignments.

The San Marcos Police Officers Association president told KXAN the department mirrors what is happening across the country — an officer shortage. Over the last five years, the union tells us it’s been really difficult to get candidates in. Beyond a budget issue, the union president said it’s more of a commentary on the career itself. People are being exposed to the difficulties of being a police officer and, he says, are choosing different paths.

A posting on the city’s website indicates as of Nov. 3, there was a $3,000 hiring incentive “designed to attract fully qualified, TCOLE certified applicants into our selection process for this test.” Nov. 3 was the date of a police officer entrance test.

San Marcos police explained the incentive was offered to lateral transfers who are already trained and don’t have to go through the academy. This saves money and time. The process from application to hitting the streets takes about a year. KXAN was told similar incentives were offered for “the last few test dates.”

KXAN was not able to get any more specifics on the current staffing situation Tuesday, with the city saying, understandably, it wants to focus its efforts on honoring Officer Copeland. We plan to respect that and follow up on those questions at a later time.

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