Houston Police Officers’ Union
1600 State Street
Houston, Texas 77007
TO: Houston City Council
FROM: Gary Blankinship, HPOU President
REF: Compensation cuts for HPD police cadets and HPD Overtime in the 2010 Proposed Budget
DATE: June 8, 2009
Following our review of proposed the 2010 annual city of Houston budget relating to three specific cuts in the Houston Police Department portion of the budget, we wanted to seek your collective help to fix what we believe are significant public safety cuts that will negatively affect police officer recruitment and police response.
The proposed budget cuts HPD’s overtime budget dramatically. The $14-plus million cut will undermine the department’s ability to properly function in its mission to protect citizens and businesses in our community. Furthermore, it will place police officers in the dangerous position of being forced to respond to emergency calls without proper backup or support.
The impact of the $14-plus million cut is the equivalent of losing 155 officers from the department for the fiscal year 2010. While we are aware that Chief Harold Hurtt and the Department’s Chief Financial Officer, Mr. Joe Fenninger, have outlined the positive growth in our classified staffing strength over the past three budget cycles of 479 officers, we are still far short of the identified staffing strength the police chief outlined to council in 2005.
Four years ago the administration of the police department identified that HPD staffing needed to be in excess of 6,000 classified officers. We would submit that in the past four years, increased demands for emergency police services in combination with Houston’s population growth has arguably caused the 6,000 classified number of officers identified in 2005 to be deficient today.
The demands for professional police services from our department have not diminished and our ability to do the best job we can to police our city has been heavily dependent on budgeted overtime money. Cutting HPD’s overtime budget is not only penny wise and pound foolish, it’s extremely ill-advised and it will truly compromise the quality of service we currently provide.
In addition to the damage caused by cutting HPD overtime, the proposed $12,000.00 hiring bonus cut is also detrimental to the HPD applicant process. The administration apparently feels that there is no longer a need to compete for the finest quality applicants that we can hire and train to be HPD officers. The new proposed program now is to cut the pay of cadets from a pro-rated annual pay of $43,260.00 to $31,260.00.
It’s our opinion that drastically reducing the compensation package which is the initial incentive for a qualified applicant to choose HPD over other competing law enforcement agencies is a very bad idea. Our department needs to be doing all it can to attract and retain the very best men and woman to HPD.
Compromising entry level pay and cutting overtime, which will also cut HPD service to the community, is the absolute wrong direction for our city leaders to take.
Finally, the proposed cuts to the number of budgeted police classes is unacceptable. Thanks to your and the Mayor’s efforts, our department has been chipping away at the tremendous classified staffing shortage our department and the citizens have been burdened with for far too long. As mentioned earlier in this document over the past year we have been able to grow our classified strength by 479 police officers over the past three fiscal years. That said, we are still woefully understaffed and police officers in Houston are continually being put in dangerous situations with little or no back-up to help them.
Therefore, the notion of drastically cutting academy classes is the equivalent of HPD crying uncle and practically giving up. This horribly ill-advised plan was authorized by then Mayor Kathryn Whitmire and city council due to budget concerns back in FY 87. It was a terrible idea then and it resulted in the unintended facilitation of a crime wave that hit Houston and sparked tremendous outrage from the citizens who were shocked that public safety in Houston was compromised by the council.
Cutting HPD growth today is a huge mistake and HPD officers, as well as the citizens who rely on us to help them, will be the victims of the proposed cut if it is adopted.
It is our hope that in the budget process wisdom will prevail and the harmful cuts in the department’s budget will be overridden by a conscientious council who supports the department and its officers.
In closing, with the economic downturn the World is currently experiencing, we understand the need for close budget scrutiny, however, public safety in Houston should not be compromised in any manner. We think the citizens of Houston would agree.