More than a dozen of the Houston Police Department's top commanders were among 126 officers who filed paperwork this week indicating they plan to retire in the first half of next year, senior City Hall and HPD sources said, a sign that a rumored exodus driven by unease about possible pension reforms may be under way.

As of last month, the department's retirements for 2016 were roughly on pace with the attrition rates seen in recent years.

MAYOR HOPEFUL: Turner weighs in on retirement numbers

But the number of officers now expected to leave by July 1 — the earliest a new pension structure would take effect, if Mayor Sylvester Turner can pass the proposal at the Legislature — far outstrips the typical volume of about 50, HPD spokesman John Cannon said.

An uptick in retirements comes at a poor time for a department that city officials and law enforcement experts agree is understaffed.

COSTING MILLIONS: City pensions will be pricey, even after reform

HPD has fewer officers on the street today than it had to police a much smaller city 15 years ago, and a recent operational study recommended ramping up hiring to improve the rates at which crimes are solved.

Chief Art Acevedo, who left his post atop the Austin Police Department to take the helm at HPD on Dec. 1, said in a recent interview with the Chronicle that he could lose 400 to 600 officers by next summer; the typical attrition rate is about 250 per year.

A BREAKTHROUGH? Houston City Council blesses Turner's pension reform plan

Acevedo said he has planned for that outcome, and was unfazed by the prospect of losing 13 of the department's top 17 commanders, the count sources said filed retirement papers on Wednesday.
The department is too top-heavy anyway, Acevedo said, and no member is irreplaceable.