Hiring Freeze Dilemma

The Harris County Sheriff's Office spent almost 33-million dollars in overtime in Sheriff Adrian Garcia's first year in office. He inherited a department that paid out nearly 35-million the year before he became the county's top lawman. County Judge Ed Emmett says he and Garcia have been talking aboutξa lot of things.

"Not the least of which I think, this whole question of the hiring freeze, because it doesn't make any sense to pay an extraordinary amount in overtime when we have vacant positions. And so, I think when we start talking about the budget, getting toward the mid year review, we're gonna have to fill some of those vacancies."

Just like the city of Houston, Harris County has been watching its bottom lineξthanks to the economy. But last month, Sheriff Garcia asked the Houston Police Department to lighten up on booking minor traffic offenders because the county lockup was filled to capacity. Judge Emmett:

"Clearly everybody is now in agreement, we need to move forward as fast as we can on the joint processing center so that we can do diversion of mental health issues, and get them out of the criminal justice system."

Until that becomes a reality, Emmett says they need to lift the hiring freeze to fill some 350-vacancies in the sheriff's department.

"That will actually save us money. I know that kind of sounds counter intuitive, but by filling the vacancies at the sheriff's office, maybe we can cut back on the overtime."

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