Senator John Whitmire endorsed by Houston Police Officer’s Union for mayor
HOUSTON - In the race to be Houston Mayor, few, if any, pronouncements of public support carry more weight than that delivered by the Police Officers Union.
265 days out from the election and longtime State Senator John Whitmire has attracted the full backing of our city's rank and file cops.
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"Before day one on the job as Mayor, I will be networking and coordinating a law enforcement surge, you might say, to the streets of Houston to protect homeowners," said Whitmire.
The endorsement comes at a critical time for those who wear the badge and the public they are sworn to protect.
For the first time in decades, the Houston Police Department is in real danger of falling below 5,000 officers, with the ranks ravaged by retirement.
"When we have an average of 270 leave every year, it's hard to keep up with attrition, and we are going to see that continue for at least the next four or five years if I had to guess," said Doug Griffith, HPOU President.
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Griffith says recruitment and retention have been hobbled by comparatively low pay and increased scrutiny.
"Our officers have a lot of stress on them. They are micromanaged with everything they do on that camera and at the end of the day, they are tired of it, and they go do another job," said Grffith.
Underscoring the alarm, a little-known, 2014 City-funded study found HPD was understaffed by 1,500 officers.
"We could easily see us at 4500 officers in a couple of years," he said.
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If elected, Whitmire pledges to attack the officer shortage with an innovative hiring strategy.
"I will take an active role as a Mayor in recruiting," said Whitmire. "There are 17,000 corrections officers in this state. I know for a fact I could go to the corrections' officer pool and immediately recruit 500 officers that would want to join HPD."
For the record, HPOU is not blaming Mayor Sylvester Turner or Houston City Council for the falling number of officers.
Instead, they sight heavy scrutiny of police officer conduct and liberal bond policies returning violent criminals to the streets as significant factors for the waning interest in wearing the badge.