Houston mayor and police chief want to hire more veterans to the force

- Sgt. Jason Cisneroz is about to change uniforms. He'll swap his Army uniform for his HPD uniform--something the Army reservist first did six years ago after being recruited.

“I did a ride along with an officer who is now sheriff. Ed Gonzales. I did a ride along with him when he was a police officer, and after that ride along I knew I wanted to be a police officer,” said Cisneroz.

Now he's one of the veterans that comprise roughly 20 percent of the department. The mayor and the chief want to expand the department by about 600 officers, and they'd love to have more vets join the ranks.

That's where Senator John Cornyn's American Law Enforcement Heroes Act comes in. It essentially turns an administrative process that gives preference to agencies that hire veterans into law--something he calls a "no brainer."

“So what this does is frees up about $25,000 per recruit to encourage the recruiting of veterans. Again, we have a sacred responsibility to the men and women who put themselves in harm’s way to keep our country safe,”  said Cornyn

But there's a catch. The city has underfunded public employee pension system. The city council has signed off on a pension reform deal but it needs state approval. The mayor says if the legislature doesn't pass pension reform this session, this bill won't help even if it does become law.

“Then we're going to have to add another $134 million to our pension woes. And if that's the case, you are going to see police officer, firefighters and municipal workers that will be laid off. Those are the realities,“ said Turner.

So there will be a lot of Houston eyes focused on Washington and Austin in the upcoming weeks.

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