Harris Co. Sheriff Adrian Garcia says hiring freeze over, plans to fill more than 300 positions

March 26, 2012 3:31:35 PM PDT
Big developments that could mean more patrols in your neighborhood. A hiring freeze within the Harris County Sheriff's Office is over which means more deputies will be hitting the streets.

The news means a lot more uniformed deputies will be making the rounds in neighborhoods across Harris County.

So where is the money for these hires suddenly coming from?

This is not happening because of some huge budget surplus. Harris Co. Sheriff Adrian Garcia says three years ago when he took office, he inherited a budget that blew the cap by $56 million. He says he had repeatedly asked commissioners fore money and was repeatedly denied. The sheriff says he's now able to get more boots on the ground by finally bringing overspending under control.

As a homeowner in unincorporated Harris County, Richard Smalley expects certain things from the HCSO.

"Just general patrol, keeping an eye out to make sure there isn't any kind of mischief or any trouble or whatnot," said Smalley.

But times for HCSO have been tough ever since a county-wide hiring freeze went into effect almost two and a half years ago due to budget constraints. At a news conference Monday morning, Sheriff Garcia told reporters that by balancing his department's $392 million budget, the tide has finally turned.

"For the first time in six years, the Harris County Sheriff's Office has spent less than the budget amount. We are $2.8 million under budget," Sheriff Garcia said.

By hiring more than 200 civilian jailers, the sheriff will be able to transfer about 100 uniformed deputies. Of that number, 60 will be sent to patrol, the remaining 40 will work investigations and in the courts.

"With 60 patrol deputies, they'll be seeing continued response to crimes, they'll see a continued control on response times to life-threatening calls, which has remained unchanged and I'm proud of these guys because they have been really working hard to respond to those life-threatening calls, those priority one calls, really at their own safety," Sheriff Garcia said.

The sheriff promised Monday that citizens will notice a difference.

"Police visibility does decrease crime," said Jerome Enriquez.

The Harris County Deputies Organization says while it welcomes the additional help, it remains skeptical of the sheriff's big announcement, telling us, "We recognize this to be nothing more than campaign blustering. Due to the lack of transparency in the Garcia administration, the data necessary to prove actual cost savings is unavailable."

It's all the same to Richard Smalley who says no matter what, as a taxpayer his expectations will not change.

"I would always be greatly appreciative if we could have more patrolling than we have had up to this point," Smalley said.

This is not something that's going to happen tomorrow. Deputies working in the jail will slowly be phased back to working on the street as those new civilian detention officers are hired.

These new hires will help offset the attrition rate at the Harris Co. Sheriff's Office as the organization loses about 20 people a month. The sheriff was also quick to add that these new hires will not bring his organization anywhere near the national average.

Those interested in applying for detention officer openings can contact the Harris Co. Sheriff's Office. Job information is available at www.hcsojobs.com.


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