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Turner And Council Members Support Growing HPD, But Don’t Say How City Would Pay For It

They have signed a pledge promoted by the police union that proposes growing the force by 500 officers in five years

Houston mayor Sylvester Turner, HPD chief Art Acevedo and Harris County sheriff Ed Gonzalez took part in a press conference about the security plans for Super Bowl 51, which will be played in Houston next February 5th.
Al Ortiz | Houston Public Media
HPD Chief Art Acevedo (center), who this file photo shows during a press event held at City Hall standing next to Mayor Sylvester Turner (first from the left), noted during the press conference organized by the HPOU that the police force the city of Chicago has is more than double compared to Houston's and the geographical area its officers cover is smaller.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and the members of the City Council have signed a pledge promoted by the Houston Police Officers' Union (HPOU) to increase the local police force by 500 officers during the next five years, but none of them are explaining how the City would pay for the increase.

HPOU's president Joseph Gamaldi announced at a press conference held Wednesday at the union's headquarters, located northwest of downtown Houston, the commitment made by the mayor and the City Council members.

Gamaldi detailed the pledge's premise is that, if the attrition rate stays at approximately 250 officers per year, the Houston Police Department (HPD) would be able to hire about 360 officers per year, which “conservatively” would add 500 officers over the next five years.

The HPOU president explained the annual HPD classes would increase from the current four or five to six.

Currently, HPD has about 5,100 officers that have to cover 640 square miles, according to Turner.

HPD Chief Art Acevedo noted that Chicago –which is currently the third largest city in the United States, while Houston is the fourth— has about 13,000 police officers that cover approximately 248 square miles.

Acevedo explained that, because of Houston’s size and HPD's current resources, it can take officers between 25 minutes and one hour, or even more, to start working on non-urgent incidents. “It's tough to deal with the response times,” the chief admitted.

“There is no question that we do not have enough police officers,” Turner said at the press conference and underlined that the way in which the City of Houston would pay for the police force increase “must be a community conversation and a community discussion.”

“And members of City Council will have to make some tough decisions,” the mayor added.

“Let us not assume that the resources in order to meet this pledge are just readily available,” Turner said at one point.

Pressed about specific ways in which the City could pay for growing the police force, the mayor declined to provide details, although when a reporter mentioned the potential elimination of Houston's revenue cap he indicated: “that is a conversation that the people of the city of Houston must have.”

Turner also said the Council members should weigh in regarding the possibility of doing away with the revenue cap, which started in 2004.