In the two years Terry Nichols has been Brownwood police chief, the police department has never managed to be be at full staff.
Nichols thinks that may change, even though there are currently four vacancies on the department. With the recent creation of a second school resource officer and the retirement later this month of Sgt. Mike Sheedy, there will soon be six vacancies.
At full staff, the department has 38 officers including Nichols and Assistant Police Chief James Fuller. That number will be 39 after Oct. 1 with the creation of the second resource officer position.
Nichols is pleased that 20 applicants took a written test on July 14, and 14 passed. Police were preparing earlier this week to conduct background checks on those 14, Nichols said. Previous tests during Nichols’ time as police chief have brought one to seven applicants.
Nichols credited the large turnout for the July 14 test with the recent decision to open the test to applicants who are not yet certified as police officers. Priority is given to already-certified officers, Nichols said. Previously, only certified officers could take the test
“With as many vacancies as we have, it’s nice to have a deep list of candidates that we’re doing backgrounds on,” Nichols said. “It’s a homer for the timing of the test.
Of the 14 who passed the test, one is a certified officer, 10 are currently enrolled in police academies and the others will attend academies if the police department hires them, Nichols said.
In June, the Brownwood City Council approved changes related to the classifications of officers. The department sought to provide a higher incentive to attract experienced officers and created two pay classifications below the current police officer (one to three years) classification:
• A probationary police officer is any certified officer with less than a year’s experience.
• A police cadet is a non-certified individual the department will send to a police academy.
The department also changed the Police Officer Hiring Incentive Program to reflect changes to incentives based on experience.
Nichols said officer Robert Lee, who previously worked as a detective, has been assigned as the second school resource officer for the Brownwood school district. It will be determined later where Lee will have an office, Nichols said.
“It’s a big district for one officer to handle,” Nichols said, adding that current school resource officer Fred Bastardo, who has an office at the high school, “needs some help.”