Jason Cisneroz has long felt a call to serve. After 9/11, he enlisted in the Army Reserves to do his part to help protect the country.
Eight years ago, he decided to answer that same call in his hometown, joining the Houston Police Department as an officer. His love for community is evident in the way he patrols — watchful, friendly, hopeful.
"You've got to go an extra step, shake a hand, say 'good morning,'" Cisneroz said. "That goes a long way."
But the 35-year-old Cisneroz and his fellow officers are strained by working in a department that says it's short as many as 2,000 officers in the nation's fourth-largest city.
"It can be overwhelming, because you want to do your part and do what you can, but you're only one person. You have to take the calls at priority level. That's all you can do," Cisneroz said.
Police Chief Art Acevedo said the department has 5,170 officers serving some 2.4 million people, and needs some 350 new officers per year to maintain that number due to attrition.
But Houston's cap on property-tax revenues has pinched the police department hiring and overtime, stretching the existing officers far too thin.
Acevedo points to Chicago, which is less than half the geographic size of Houston but operates a force of 12,500 officers.
"We've changed the way we deploy people, we've changed the way we investigate violent crime, … but at the end of the day when you're 1,500 to 2,000 officers short, you can only squeeze so much from a lemon," Acevedo said.