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Houston Getting $10M to Hire 50 More Police

Houston Getting $10M to Hire 50 More Police

Mayor Annise Parker, along with HPD Assistant Chief Michael Dirden, right, and other officers, discusses the city's plans for the new officers. "We will spend these dollars wisely," she said. AP

The Houston Chronicle via YellowBrix

October 01, 2010

HOUSTON – The city will receive nearly $10 million from the Department of Justice to hire 50 additional police officers, a lifeline to the Houston Police Department at a time when the city’s budget crunch has limited the number of new officers in recent years.

Houston was one of only five cities in the United States to receive three years of funding for 50 police officers, the maximum allowed in the federal grant program.

“We will spend these dollars wisely, continuing the strict fiscal stewardship that has kept Houston from having to follow other major cities in furloughing or laying off police during these tough economic times,” Mayor Annise Parker said in a written statement.

The Justice Department announced in Houston nearly $300 million in grants to fund 1,388 law enforcement positions all over the country through its Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.

Last year, the city was shut out of the COPS hiring program, which issued $1 billion in grants through the federal stimulus package. The city had applied for $50 million in that round of funding. Former Mayor Bill White sharply criticized the decision and said Houston was being penalized for its strong financial position compared with other areas.

In fiscal 2010, which ended June 30 of this year, no new police officers graduated from the academy. Nearly 139 are expected to graduate this year, including 67 Thursday night.

The city is expected to fund just two academy classes in fiscal 2011 and 2012, compared with seven classes each in fiscal 2008 and 2009.

Gary Blankinship, president of the Houston Police Officers Union, noted that the department has an estimated 2.3 or 2.4 police officers per 1,000 Houstonians, far lower than the average per capita staffing of the nation’s other most populous cities.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” he said. “Hopefully, in three years, this economy will have turned around and we’ll be in much better shape than we are now.”

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