ATHENS, Texas (KETK) — In an effort to recruit more police officers, the Athens City Council recently moved to increase salaries for the police department.

The city says that the Athens Police Department currently has nine openings as it has reportedly been short-staffed for years due to a statewide lack of recruits.

They further stated that this hasn’t been caused by a lack of effort, because they have resorted to many measures to recruit such as increased pay, sign-on bonuses, incentives for officers from other departments to relocate and even a cadet program that pays recruits while they attend the academy. Yet, the shortage has persisted nonetheless.

On Monday, June 27, the city council took an additional step to recruit more officers by authorizing an increase to the APD pay scale. This new pay scale would increase a beginning officer’s starting salary from $46,654 per year to $59,528, with smaller increases depending on rank for officers currently with the department to help retain them.

“We’re competing with much larger agencies for recruits and salary plays a role,” Police Chief John Densmore said.

City Manager Elizabeth Borstad added that they “have to take significant measures to be competitive.”

The council unanimously agreed to the motion, approving the new pay scale. Mayor Toni Garrard Clay cited the “urgency” of the issue and Mayor Pro-tem Aaron Smith added that an “aggressive move” is needed to help with recruitment.