Nearly 200 officers could lose jobs

April 21, 2011 5:43:39 PM PDT
It's not a rumor anymore. Big cuts are more than likely coming for the Houston Police Department. There's not enough money, so cops may have to go. Hundreds of civilian employees will also probably lose their jobs. It's important to note that nothing is final until the mayor says it is, but Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland did submit his proposal to Mayor Annise Parker. In order to meet those budget goals, a significant number of HPD employees -- both police officers and civilians -- would be laid off if he had to implement that plan today.

Chief McClelland is recommending that 181 police officers and 445 civilian employees be laid off. The civilian employees would include those working in the jail. Officers with the least seniority would be cut first.

The department would have to give those employees a minimum of 45 days notice. Since the budget has to be passed before June 30, pink slips could be handed out in just a few weeks.

Chief McClelland calls his proposal a worst case scenario, and says there is still time to save these jobs.

McClelland said, "The mayor has told me she's committed to doing everything that she can to reprogram money back into HPD to make sure that that doesn't happen. There's a lot of things that could happen outside of the mayor's control. She may not be able to guarantee 100 percent, but she has certainly committed to me, 'Look, I don't want to do this. I'm going to do everything I can to make sure that this does not happen.' And I believe that."

"I personally don't see how we can lose any classified officers and continue to deliver the services to the citizens of Houston that they expect," said Houston Police Officer's Union President Gary Blankinship.

Chief McClelland says he would need $17 million from the city of Houston in order to save those jobs. The fight to save these jobs will not be an easy one. HPD's operating budget is somewhere near $685 million -- 95 percent of that goes towards salaries.

There are two new cadet classes slated for the budget for next year, and those cadets will not be cut. One class is scheduled to start in May.

Firefighters could lose jobs too

Major budget cuts could also hit the Houston Fire Department hard. A source told us that roughly 200 firefighters are facing job cuts due to budget constraints.

Jeff Caynon, president of the Houston Professional Firefighters Association, said those numbers are accurate and worries what those layoffs would mean.

"When we have structure fires with fatalities, it's always almost the very, very young or the very, very old and we're making a decision here that essentially says the city of Houston is okay with the very, very young and very, very old dying in house fires," Caynon said.

Stay with Eyewitness News and for the latest on this story.

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