Texas removes age limit for law enforcement candidates
The new law retains the minimum age of 18 but removes the age limit of 44 for interested in applying for jobs in law enforcement
By Matt Smith
Cleburne Times-Review, Texas
CLEBURNE, Texas — A law set to go into effect Sept. 1 passed by the Texas Legislature and signed by Gov. Greg Abbott removes the age cap for men and women interested in applying for jobs in law enforcement.
Cleburne Police Chief Rob Severance, who joined other law enforcement officers from across the state in pushing for the bill, called passage of House Bill 1661 a win for law enforcement and the public.
“I’m so excited this bill passed,” Severance said. “Everywhere across the state, really across the nation, law enforcement agencies are struggling to hire enough officers. This should help a lot and, we hope, greatly increase the pool of potential applicants not just for the Cleburne Police Department but everywhere.”
Under the current rule, a person wishing to take the entrance exam for a position in most police departments must be 18 but no older than 44 with the exception of officers transferring from one agency to accept a job as chief of police at another. The new law retains the minimum age of 18 but removes the age limit.
The maximum age limit soon to be dispensed with applies only to municipal civil service departments, of which CPD is one. The age limit did not apply to law enforcement agencies not classified civil service departments, Severance said.
“Cleburne is one of the departments in 102 Texas cities, and the only law enforcement agency in Johnson County, under municipal civil service,” Severance said. “It was adopted at the city’s Jan. 8, 1948, election and approved by the [Cleburne City Council] on Jan. 23, 1948.”
The benefits of operating under a civil service model are fairness and accountability, Severance said.
“The purpose for police and fire departments, although this new law only affects police departments, is to remove politics from public safety employment decisions,” Severance said. “It sets up requirements and due process steps. So, in other words, I can’t just hire who I want. There has to be a competitive exam and a process to hire or disqualify applicants in order of that list.”
State Rep. Dewayne Burns, R-Cleburne, discussed the bill during a recent visit to the Cleburne Rotary Club.
“There’s a shortage of police officers and this should help with filling those vacancies,” Burns said.
Severance praised efforts by Burns and state Sen. Phil King, R-Weatherford, in support of the bill.
“We approached [Burns] and asked if he would introduce the legislation,” Severance said. “We also communicated with Sen. King’s office. Both they and their staffs were great to work with. I testified for the bill before the House Committee on Urban Affairs. They asked a lot of good questions and there were others there in support of the bill.”
For a variety of reasons, it’s become harder to hire police officers in recent years throughout the country.
“Fully staffed we would be 55 officers including myself,” Severance said. “We’re currently eight short from being fully staffed and I’ve heard issues of similar or larger staff shortage challenges from police chiefs around the state.”
Severance said several at or near the current age limit have expressed interest but previously would not have been able to apply.
“We’re working through our last eligibility list to hire or disqualify candidates,” Severance said. “But we have fewer people on that list than we have vacancies. So we’re going to have to test again. Which, we’ll probably do sometime in September after the new law goes into effect so we’ll have a broader pool of applicants, potentially at least.”
CPD has long recruited at Fort Cavazos, formerly Fort Hood.
“In talking to police chiefs around the state we found that a lot of people who retired after a career in the military at 45 or older still have a passion for service,” Severance said. “Under the current law couldn’t apply to [municipal civil service departments] but will be able to now. [Johnson County Sheriff Adam King], the sheriff’s office isn’t under civil service, told me that some of his best deputies have been people who were past their 44th birthday when they were hired.”
One would think that younger officer candidates would be better suited for police position jobs, but such is not always the case, Severance said.
“Some people at 40, 50 or older are in better shape than most 20-year-olds,” Severance said. “So it’s really a case-by-case situation rather than lumping everyone into age groups. All applicants old or young will still have to take the fitness test, have a medical exam and go through all the requirements everyone has to go through.”
Another plus, Severance said, is that CPD pays for accepted applicants to go through police academy training and pays them while they’re attending.
“You can apply to [CPD] and don’t have to have a peace officer’s license,” Severance said. “We’ll send you to the police academy pay for that and pay your salary while you’re attending. Not every department will hire somebody and fully train them like that.”
The new law, once it goes into effect, may inspire officers 45 and over at larger Metroplex police departments to consider Cleburne, Severance said.
“Cleburne has a good, hometown feel and as police here we get a lot of support and appreciation from the community,” Severance said. I think that’s an opportunity for some of the officers working in bigger cities who maybe don’t feel that appreciation.
“Here you get a chance to do community policing in a manner where you get to know people in the community and feel like you’re making a difference. I don’t know that you always get the same sense of satisfaction like that working in a larger department.
“Overall, this new law should help us in our continuing goal to get word out to everybody about opportunities in Cleburne and what a great community this is to work in.”
(c)2023 the Cleburne Times-Review (Cleburne, Texas)
Visit the Cleburne Times-Review (Cleburne, Texas) at www.cleburnetimesreview.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.