Expect to see “a lot of new faces” in the Brownwood Police Department, Police Chief Terry Nichols said, noting the recent hirings of seven new officers who have brought the department to nearly full strength.

The police department hasn’t been at full strength in the nearly 2 1/2 years Nichols has been chief. Counting Nichols and Assistant Police Chief James Fuller, the department is allowed 39 officers.

The Brownwood City Council recently approved the addition of a new school resource officer, which is being filled by officer Robert Lee, who previously worked as a detective. In December, the department expects to hire a police academy graduate who fill fill the opening created by Lee’s transfer.

That hiring will put the department at full strength, Nichols said.

“We’ve been talking about this for months — if not for the past 2 1/2 years that I’ve been here — filling positions that were vacant,” Nichols said. “People have moved on, there have been several retirements, other officers have left for various reasons. So we finally are just getting back up to full strength.

“To clarify, we’ve only added one new position in the police department during my tenure here in the past 2 1/2 years and that was Oct. 1 when we created a new resource officer’s position in partnership with the Brownwood Independent School District.”

The school district is also contracting with off-duty officers to work as school resource officers at various campuses. “It’s just very random, where they’re going to be,”

Nichols said.

Having a full-strength department “will give the men and women out on the street a chance to breath, because they’re working short staffed,” Nichols said. “We’re running short in our detectives. We’re actually going to be fully staffed in our detective division again.”

When the department was short-staffed, Nichols said, there was a decrease in “self-initiated activity. Traffic stops. Things like that. Because when the officers are running call- to-call, backed up on reports, they don’t have the time to dedicate to going out and working traffic enforcement, sitting at intersections, or looking for people leaving drug houses, making traffic stops on people leaving drug houses.

“Not that we haven’t been doing it, but the volume has gone down as you lose the resources on the street. As they get thinner and thinner, the availability for them to do these type of proactive measures goes down. So I hope to see us increase that as well.”

The success in hiring seven officers followed decisions to change the civil service pay ordinance and to allow those who were not already certified police officers to take the written test.

When only certified officers could test, “that’s a small pool of people that want to come to Brownwood, Texas, and we would have two, three people show up,” Nichols said.

“We opened it up where anybody could come take the entry level test, and we had a record show up back in July.”

Nichols said there had been “perfect timing” because two police academies were under way at the same time — one on Brownwood and one in Abilene.

The new hires included four officers from the academies, a former officer who returned and an officer from out-of-state had had ties to brownwood, Nichols said.

“Perfect timing, doing a test, having these academies here,” Nichols said. “We’re seeing some new officers with no experience coming from straight the academies, and we’re also seeing some very tenured officers coming back, so it’s a great mixture.”

“Be looking for a lot of new faces in the Brownwood Police Department. We’re excited to have them here. I’m hearing great things about them on the street, the work they’re doing.”