HAYS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — The Hays County Sheriff’s Office can now hire candidates that are not licensed peace officers and send them to a peace officer academy.

It was a change approved by the Hays County Commissioners Court at its Oct. 10 meeting.

“Right now for our recruiting, all we can do is recruit licensed peace officers,” Chief Deputy Mike Davenport said to the court. “By making this change, we will be able to recruit civilians to send them to an academy, which opens up a very broad net for recruiting versus the very isolating way that we have right now.”

According to the agenda item, there were 12 deputy slots open.

“Vacant slots filled with civilian candidates will be paid at a lower salary which could result in an overall savings to the operating budget,” the agenda item read.

Hays County Sheriff’s Deputy Anthony Hipolito said the change could attract more candidates at a time when law enforcement agencies struggle with staffing.

“There are so many law enforcement agencies within just a few miles of Hays County,” Deputy Hipolito said. “We compete with each other to try and find the best applicants possible.”

Unique for a sheriff’s office

Communications and Social Media Manager for the Texas Municipal Police Association, Tyler Owen, said this is unique for a sheriff’s office.

“Larger departments – Austin, Texas Department of Public Safety – they all pay their recruits, or their cadets while they’re in the academy,” Owen said. “But historically, sheriff’s offices haven’t been able to afford that.”

Owen said this is just another example of agencies finding more ways to fill their open positions.

“We’re just glad to see agencies think outside the box,” Owen said. “This way they can stay competitive with the market.”

Where else does this happen?

KXAN reached out to other sheriff’s offices in the Central Texas area to see if they do this.

In a statement, the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office said it does not hire anyone for law enforcement positions who are not already Licensed Peace Officers. 

“We do however send our current corrections officers to the police academy and upon completion of the academy are able to be placed on the list for patrol positions,” the WCSO said.

According to WCSO, it has eight current patrol deputy vacancies, as of Oct. 9.

The Travis County Sheriff’s Office told KXAN that its cadets are paid employees.

“All cadets in our Basic Peace Officer Course are unlicensed. They go through our (9 month) academy to become licensed peace officers. Candidates who come to TCSO as licensed peace officers go straight to patrol after the hiring process and go through 15 weeks of field training before being allowed to serve as a TCSO Deputy,” the TCSO said.

As of October 1, TCSO said it has 28 vacancies for patrol deputies.