By Sandy Malone and Holly Matkin
Houston, TX – While many police departments across the country are dealing with budget cuts and anti-police sentiment from the city council, the Houston Police Department is expanding its police force and recruiting officers who are leaving other cities.
“People of Houston, they don’t want less policing, they want better policing and well-trained police officers,” Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo told 44 new officers at the graduation ceremony for the latest police cadet class, KRIV reported.
Houston officials recently approved the funding for five new academy classes to add about 400 new officers to their police force.
“We’re excited about the restoration of five classes, while places like Austin are cutting a significant amount of police resources,” Chief Acevedo told the graduating class of police cadets, according to KRIV.
The Austin City Council voted to slash the city’s police budget by $150 million late last week, thereby removing approximately one-third of the department’s total funding.
The council approved the 34 percent defunding effort on Aug. 13, according to FOX News.
The three-tiered plan will kick off by immediately stripping $21.5 million from the police budget to be “reinvested” into programs such as abortion, housing, mental health response, offender re-entry programs, and workforce development, among others.
That money was previously allocated to fund three Austin Police Department (APD) police cadet classes, The Texas Tribune reported.
Nearly $80 million will be funneled into a “Decouple Fund,” which aims to transfer many police programs to outside agencies.
Included in the Decouple Fund are functions such as the special investigations unit, internal affairs, the 911 center, victims’ services, and forensic science services, among others.
Nearly $50 million will be transferred to the “Reimagine Safety Fund,” which will “divert dollars…toward alternative forms of public safety and community support,” according to the city council’s plan.
Houston, on the other hand, is taking the complete opposite approach from Austin, according to Chief Acevedo, KRIV reported.
“I think it’s ridiculous when you make decisions that are knee-jerk political decisions that are not based on evidence, not based on research,” the Houston police chief said. “It ends up impacting the safety of American people in Austin.”
And the Houston mayor appeared to be on board with Chief Acevedo’s plan of building up the police department rather than dismantling it, KRIV reported.
“People want policing that is sound, accountable, and respectful,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said. “They want public safety. In this city we have about 5,300 police officers, and we’ve always said that we need at least 600 more.”
The police chief said he wanted to deliver a message to experienced police officers in cities that were experiencing defunding and other attacks on their police departments, KRIV reported.
“I will just say to police officers in Austin, and the good police officers across the country, come to Houston,” he said during his commencement speech at the police academy graduation.
Chief Acevedo said that the Houston PD was working on a program to make it easier for out-of-state officers to make lateral transfers and join the Houston police force, according to KRIV.
The chief said the new program could be as short as 10 weeks of training for transfers, as opposed to the regular six months of training required for new recruits.