Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

McClelland wants more money for more cops

And I want some answers before we go along with this request.

Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland asked city leaders Tuesday for an additional $105 million over five years to hire hundreds of new officers as part of a plan to shore up divisions where thousands of crimes are never investigated and bolster traffic enforcement as automobile collisions citywide are rising.

McClelland’s request comes as Mayor Annise Parker is searching for cuts to address an estimated $120 million budget deficit for the fiscal year that begins next July 1. Rising pension and debt costs, along with a voter-approved cap on city revenues, are fueling the city’s looming budget problems.

Executive assistant chief Timothy Oettmeier said HPD is proposing hiring 540 additional officers over the next five years, part of a 10-year plan to add 1,200 officers to investigative and patrol divisions. The staff increase would include new officers and hiring civilians to free up officers for field work.

Oettmeier said HPD was “enormously sensitive” to the budget situation and is using the hiring plan as a way to start a discussion. “What we’re simply saying is we need additional personnel, but given the current economic climate, can we sit down and figure out how to proceed at a time that’s appropriate for everybody,” Oettmeier said.

[…]

This summer, two independent police research groups hired to analyze HPD’s staffing noted that the department’s division commanders reported they had more than 20,000 crimes with workable leads that were not investigated due to a lack of manpower. That figure included burglaries and thefts, hit-and-run crashes and assaults.

Crime statistics provided to the committee showed HPD’s clearance rate for theft, burglary and auto theft was 11 percent last year.

[Ray Hunt, president of the Houston Police Officers’ Union] blamed a 44 percent clearance rate for rapes on low staffing, adding that HPD has seven detectives working adult sex crimes, compared to 15 deployed by the Austin Police Department.

“There’s no question that we’re struggling in some of the investigative divisions,” Oettmeier said, responding to the union.

I’ve expressed my opinion on that no-investigations report before, and the questions I raised then have not been addressed, as far as I know. I am not willing to spend more money on hiring officers until we get some answers to how well HPD uses the budget and resources it has now. We may well need to hire more officers, and to increase the pay we offer to them. I’m perfectly willing to accept that possibility, and the possibility that we will need to spend more money on police, but I am not willing to accept anyone’s word for it. Show me how HPD has performed in comparison to its own recent past and to other large city police forces, and then we can talk staffing levels. I don’t think I’m asking for too much here.

Related Posts:

3 Comments

  1. Paul Kubosh says:

    Well said Kuffner I couldn’t agree more. Spoken like a Blue dog democrat. Surely you are not far from the Kingdom of Heaven. 🙂

  2. Steven Houston says:

    I’ve already established the need for more employees in previous comments so I won’t dwell on that topic just as I’ve suggested the lower pay and benefits have hampered quality recruiting so much that just adding warm bodies is not going to help as much as the city claims. Whomever is advising their chief on the math of the situation is in need of replacement too since “an additional $105 million over five years” is NOT going to result in “hundreds” of new officers, their average each coming in around $100k/yr so the idea that this $105 million will fund 540 officers makes me wonder if Kubosh’s pal Oettmeier has been hitting the wine bottles closer to home this year. The budget shortfall numbers keep bouncing around like a pinball too because some of the estimates are significantly higher for next year and subsequent years.

    The main focus of all this is “a plan to shore up divisions where thousands of crimes are never investigated and bolster traffic enforcement as automobile collisions citywide are rising”. First off, perhaps our resident traffic ticket guru can comment on how much safer roadways are when the bulk of dedicated ticket writers are ordered to congregate together in locations where the speed limit looks artificially low or under underpasses where stickers and seat belts are the main focus. By grouping them together, their overall effectiveness goes down even if they write a lot of tickets. Could this be a case where better deployment in conjunction with improving traffic light timing might help more than throwing manpower at the situation?

    Second, as evidenced by the recent dog and pony show to make the testing of rape kits look more effective, the one where seasoned investigators were taken from other divisions to help work recent sexual assaults to bolster city numbers they then tied to the kit testing program to make it “look” like a success, we should set priorities while we figure out how to use existing manpower before worrying about getting more. Of those un-investigated cases, how many were for a sizable amount of say $500 or more? $1000? $10,000? I’m willing to bet that most of them were petty thefts including beer runs where convenience stores leave pallet loads of beer beside the exit door, cases where someone walked a check at a restaurant, or shoplifted an article of clothing. Do we really want to spend hundreds of dollars on a pack of gum lifted by a kid?

    Perhaps Mr. Kubosh can explain what a great deal of helpful work HPD’s ever expanding command staff does to help the average citizen too. Each of the assistant chiefs has a growing number of subordinates taken off the street for their disposal, manpower most would suggest could be better used fighting crime, corruption, and evil than playing videogames, chatting up friends of their assigned chief, or nonsensical projects designed to garner acclaim for their boss.

    My suggestion to wipe the slate clean and greatly reduce the number of command staff is only part of the fix. The city’s biggest manpower issue is morale, not sheer numbers. Find a chief and command staff that are going to support the average officer doing their job if you want productivity to soar. I don’t mean more tickets for low tire tread or cracked windshields either. Also, start hiring people that want to be officers, not fill a quota with low standard flunkies; that’ll free up the manpower used to fix their mistakes too.

    The bottom line is that cuts are coming, not expansions. Anyone behind this current request in a high level of authority just doesn’t get it, more expenses and higher costs are coming for the next 3 to 6 years. As such, they have proven unsuitable for the challenges coming and need to be replaced with those who get it.

  3. Steven Houston says:

    It gets worse. Having read the presentation in full and watching the associated meetings makes me wonder if they are not asleep at the wheel in terms of preparing for the future. They acknowledge that the average cost per officer including benefits is over $120k/year yet base all their numbers on the cheap years. As this is supposed to be a 10 year plan, guess what happens when the programmed step increases kick in at regular intervals?

    Yes, by the time year ten is hit, presuming no raises or benefit restorations kick in, the costs start rising far faster than city revenues would even if gas prices were level. Officers that once cost $22k in their academy days start working nights, weekends, getting all those merit pays and such to start making $50 or 60k with all the added benefit costs. As the city is already facing a budget crunch and refuses to pay enough into pensions, that kind of spending will quickly double, triple, and likely quadruple. Be careful how you proceed if you think this is all coming for free.