New sheriff compiles wish list

January 5, 2009 3:50:58 PM PST
The new Harris County sheriff says he has high hopes for the department, but there aren't enough deputies to patrol Harris County. That's why newly-installed Sheriff Adrian Garcia has three priorities: hiring, hiring, and more hiring.[SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

The Harris County sheriff's office is responsible for thousands of square miles and thousands of prisoners a year. But the numbers in boots on the frontlines don't reflect that.

According to the most recent county budget, the department has 4,021 employees. Only 693 are on patrol. Unincorporated Harris County is said to have a population comparable to the seventh-largest city in the country.

"The seventh-largest city in America has approximately 1,500, maybe 1,800 officers," said Sheriff Garcia.

The department is understaffed with deputies working overtime in the jail and on the street. The hiring sign is out, but pay in HPD is higher and other departments have signing bonuses. The new sheriff is examining whether higher pay can level the hiring field.

"At the end of the day, people have families. People have got to put beans on the table so we've got to pay attention to the actual salary itself," said Sheriff Garcia.

The sheriff will soon be going before county commissioners to come up with a budget. His thought is that if grant money can be found to fund some purchases, perhaps federal matching funds could be found to free up enough money for pay enhancements.

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