Budget cuts already affecting HPD

February 15, 2011 4:18:27 PM PST
"Doing more with less" is the budget buzz word this year. But we've found you're not always getting more when government has less.

We are taking a look at the city of Houston's budget, trying to find out where cuts have been made on your block and how they're already affecting the Houston Police Department.

There are still thousands of police officers on the job. Unlike most departments, officers aren't being furloughed, but they are being cut back and that's the kind of impact we thought you should know about.

The Houston Police Department's gone high tech to keep you safe. We've shown you in the past how HPD's realtime Crime Center tracks police incidents minute by minute and how real time crime trends are relayed to officers at the start of their shift to help keep crime down on your block.

But in the past few years, so much of HPD's hotspot defense depended on overtime. But now, police overtime has been dramatically cut.

"Reshuffling priorities, and as Chief McClelland likes to say, doing more with less, we're gonna be able to hone the line," said Kirk Munden with the Houston Police Department.

The city budget cut 20 percent of HPD's overtime. It's not just hotspots, but traffic programs that depend on overtime as well.

The cuts are the equivalent of taking 79 police officers off Houston's streets.

"It forced our managers to be more creative," Munden said.

It's a burden that will likely get harder before it gets any easier. To cut even more cash, the department postponed cadet classes.

HPD needs about 150 new officers every year just to keep up with retirements. Now they won't even have that.

"We could do good things with more cops and more cash," Munden said.

Department staffing finally recovered this year, but the budget cuts and academy postpones mean the departments expects overall staffing to drop in the near future.

More money isn't likely to come soon.

Remember in addition to the overall budget issues, the police department lost millions when the city turned off red light cameras.