ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Abilene Police Chief Marcus Dudley says his department is handling this latest surge of COVID-19 well, with disruptions to operations minimal as officers are returning to work faster than previous surges, citing milder and more quickly resolving symptoms.

“We have been fortunate that as soon as a wave of folks have gone out, by the time they return, the next wave is needing to be out ill,” says Chief Dudley. “It’s allowed us to be able to transition without having to take drastic measures.”

Chief Dudley says the department will continue virus-fighting efforts to ensure officers’ health. That includes the regular sanitation of shared workspaces.

“We’re going to keep doing decontamination efforts on our workspaces, our facility, and patrol vehicles that our folks are working out of,” said Chief Dudley.

Looking at staffing overall, Chief Dudley says the department is only down by a few hands, a gap that could possibly be filled by a police academy taking place right now and another academy to follow shortly after.

“Our approved strength level is 216, we currently have 205 sworn officers, so we are running short about 11,” said Chief Dudley. “We brought in 17 folks, so we’re real excited about the potential. We would love to see all of those folks make it through the academy and get into our training officer program.”

In the New Year, the chief says he’d like to continue working on goals started for the department in 2021: incorporating and upgrading technology, improving mental health for officers, and increasing advocacy for victims of crime.

“I’m confident that with the support of elected officials and our budgets that we’ve put forth, we’re going to continue to make good strides,” said Chief Dudley.

Another goal for APD is of course continuing to solve crimes, the chief wanting to keep up the good track record started by special teams last year.

“Last year we recorded eight homicides: one was a traffic fatality and that case was solved, and the other seven were solved,” said Chief Dudley. “Our persons investigators have a 100% clearance rate and that’s remarkable for this day and age. Crime suppression a huge part of what we do.”