First, I want to applaud Mayor Turner for instructing his management team to find money for a fifth academy class this coming year.
Each class holds around 70 cadets, which will result in approximately 350 new officers in the next year. Hopefully this will be significantly less than the number of officer who retire during that same period. But I am fearful we will simply keep up with attrition.
In 2003, HPD had 5,373 sworn officers. As of this writing, we have 5,184, which includes 129 probationary police officers. Since 2003, calls for service have increased and Houston’s square miles have increased while our force has decreased.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that we have a problem. This is not only a problem for citizens, it’s also a problem for the safety of our officers, who frequently arrive alone on dangerous calls.
Last month on one particular non-holiday, one station had eight units for the entire shift while the minimum staffing on holidays for that station is 12. One officer had been sent to eight calls when he contacted me and was only able to arrive on three of them before being preempted for higher priority calls.
Few supervisors will allow officers to partner up when there are so few persons on the shift. But that’s exactly when they should be paired up! If calls have to hold in order to insure our officers’ safety, so be it.
The solution is not to start closing the red book because it’s already difficult for those in patrol to take time off. Our captains and assistant chiefs cannot overwork their troops by denying time off simply because some in this city do not want to pay for the services they are provided, especially public safety.
Last year’s staffing study showed we were approximately 800 officers short. The HPOU still believes that number is closer to 1,500. The city finance department shows a possible budget shortfall next year of near $160 million.
So, what’s the solution?
First and foremost, the business leaders need to be educated that the revenue cap has to be lifted to hire more boots on the ground if crime is going to be controlled.
Further, the TIRZ have to start paying for all costs associated with the officers assigned to those areas. Metro needs to be paying their fair share for the use of our roads, the jail, the computer system, etc., and their officers need to be a division of HPD.
There is no excuse for Metro to be operating a separate police department. A garbage fee (like the fee I pay in the county and the HPOU pays to a private company each month in the city for garbage service) needs to be implemented.
Our leaders have to move toward a public safety fee to hire more officers. These additional revenues will add to the general fund and will allow for more cadet classes, even if the academy has to start running an evening shift to accommodate these necessary additions.
Finally, the chief of police needs to consider adding some lateral classes that could get officers out of the academy quicker than six months. We need assistance and we need it now!
Many of you probably believe I sound like a broken record because we have been sounding the lack of manpower alarm for years. But the HPOU will not stop sounding this alarm simply because it seems to fall on deaf ears. The citizens of the great city of Houston want a safe environment and that costs money. Our lack of manpower jeopardizes our officers’ safety and the safety of everyone living inside the Houston city limits.
Our leaders need to stop talking about revenue sources and start collecting from current sources (TIRZ and Metro) and implementing new ones (garbage fee and crime control fee).
A Will Could Prevent a Disaster
I know I have discussed the importance of everyone having a will, but have to reiterate this common sense advice based on the disaster the Richard Martin children are experiencing.
When Martin was killed on May 18, 2015, he unfortunately did not have a will. His two children are now experiencing pure hell in probate court simply in order to get what rightfully belongs to them and only them.
The judge appointed a temporary administrator whose-record keeping – in my opinion – is sloppy at best. He convinced Richard’s oldest child to leave the house, making her believe she was there illegally when she was not. She had no place to go and the actions by this administrator should have never happened. But he did get her out, changed the locks, and now controls the premises.
The children have to get the administrator’s permission to enter the home that they are the sole heirs to!
At the same time, others who are not entitled to any property are allowed to come and go as they please. Recently, one of those people was at the location alone and moving items out. The police were called and it was confirmed he was there alone and had the permission of the administrator to be there.
Interestingly, the person at the location was the husband of a person fighting to obtain items from the estate. Unreal!
All the property in the home has been removed under the supervision of the administrator. This also includes Richard’s truck, which was removed and now on the property of the administrator.
Numerous guns that belonged to Richard and are now the property of the children were ordered to be given to the administrator to do as he sees fit. Neither child – the only heirs – want the guns to be removed from the house where the youngest child is residing. This is incredibly unfair, but the children have to wait for the court to decide what they will get and when they will get it.
This is happening because there was no will and the court decided who the temporary administrator would be.
I recently did a public information request to see how much the estate has paid the administrator at this point, but nothing was paid at that time. My fear is that this temporary administrator will eat up all the assets of the estate that should belong to the Martin children.
I have exposed this travesty to the media and will continue to attend all hearings and expose what is happening simply because this public servant had no will. After the first media report, an attorney contacted me and advised these disasters happen regularly in probate court when there is no will.
The Houston Police Officers’ Pension System will complete a will for members at no charge. Simply call 713-869-8734 and arrange an appointment. Many attorneys in the Houston area also complete wills for a fee and there are will forms that can be downloaded online and completed as well.
Don’t make your loved ones experience the disaster the Martin children are painfully going through right now. Complete a will today!