HPD presents proposed budget cuts to council

June 1, 2010 4:16:18 PM PDT
We've told you for months that departments within the City of Houston have to slash their budgets to make up for a multi-million dollar shortfall. If you live in a neighborhood that needs more police presence, these cuts will likely reduce any chance of more officers on your street.

We now know that approximately 40 fewer uniformed officers will be on the street if this budget passes, along with a number of civilian jobs that could be eliminated.

When it comes to this year's expected police operations, HPD Chief Charles McClelland summed it up like this.

"We're certainly going to have to do more with less," said Chief McClelland.

He was challenged to trim nearly two percent off this year's budget. Part of that will be done by doing away with several civilian jobs.

"All of our temporary employees we have, we're releasing those, and some of our contractual security services, we're releasing those," Chief McClelland said.

That means approximately 60 civilian workers will be let go immediately. The Houston Police Officers' Union worries those jobs will now have to be filled by uniformed officers.

"You have a lot more officers that could be on the street or could be investigating burglaries or could be doing other investigations," said Mark Clark of the Houston Police Officers' Union.

That is just part of the challenge the department faces. Current cadet classes will likely not keep pace with officers leaving the force. With fewer officers on the streets, it could mean slower response times for citizens. And with fewer resources, overtime programs that offset staffing shortages may be reduced.

"It is a fine balance and it's obviously going to be tough. I'm sure it's something we're going to have to be assessing throughout the fiscal year," said Council Member Ed Gonzalez, a former police officer.

City Council is already offering suggestions, such as looking at the top supervisors to see if those jobs can be consolidated. The chief says he's looking at that, but insists all jobs are worth saving.

"I'm responsible for public safety and I'm the chief of police so all 5,370 are responsible in some way," Chief McClelland said.

The budget hearings are ongoing as each department within the city has to justify the cuts that will be made. A final budget is expected at the end of June.

The mayor's plan calls for the police department to cut $12 million from its budget. The fire department is being asked to cut $5.4 million. The mayor says additional cuts across the board in other departments will help save the city $24.3 million.


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