In his budget presentation to Houston City Council, HPD Chief Charles McClelland pledged he would work with a
reduced police force and budget limitations to provide the same level of public safety as in the past.
McClelland says there are about 500 fewer people on the force than there were two years ago. He's also cutting nearly $16 million from the fiscal year 2011 budget.
"We're going to have to do more with less. I'm going to have to have employees that have to multi-task. I will have to have some police officers that will be doing tasks that ordinarily civilian personnel would be doing. But with the loss of that civilian staffing, it's going to be difficult, it's going to be a challenge. I certainly think that we're still going to be able to keep this city safe. But some other non-emergency services may be slower."
Many of the budget reductions went into effect earlier this year. But the chief is looking for ways to eliminate an additional $4.3 million after the loss of red light camera revenue. All temporary and part-time personnel are now cut, along with 39 full-time civilian positions. He says the department will lose close to 150 employees. He's also cutting $2.6 million dollars in overtime pay.
"Out of the $666 million budget that we have for HPD, 95 percent of that is salary costs or personnel costs. So we actually run the police department on five percent — which I think we do a very, very good job. We may have some supplemental revenues from state and federal grants, but that is our basic budget."
Chief McClelland says the loss of red light camera revenue will result in an additional $6 million reduction next fiscal year.
Despite the deep cuts in civilian positions and overtime, Houston Mayor Annise Parker bristled at the suggestion
that public safety might suffer.
"I just pulled 14 police officers back out of SafeClear, for example, through the relationship we have with METRO. We are going to continue to look for ways that we can leverage the officers we have to make up for those changes in overtime."
But the mayor adds there is one serious issue that could affect public safety. Of the just over 5,000 police officers in HPD, 1,800 are eligible for retirement. Parker says the city is working hard to keep those officers on the force.