HOUSTON (FOX 26) - Despite steady growth that will soon make Houston the third largest city in the U.S., there are fewer officers patrolling the streets than there were in 2000. Mayoral candidate Sylvester Turner says that has to change, even if it demands a tax increase.
"The reality is if people are living in fear and don't feel safe in their homes and their businesses, we all lose," said Texas State Rep. Turner. That's why if elected Mayor of Houston, the longtime state legislator has committed to lifting the amount of Houston officers to 6,000 by 2021, an increase of 108 officers per year.
It's a plan that's drawn the political endorsement of two former Houston Police Department chiefs, Houston city councilman C.O. Bradford and former Houston Mayor Lee Brown, both of whom support Turner's recommitment to time-intensive community policing.
"Brings about that much needed contact between police officers and citizens, the contact leads to communication, communication leads to trust," said Councilman Bradford.
"Get to know the businesses there and work with them to solve the problems that the people consider important," said former Mayor Brown.
More officers would mean fewer would be left to man patrol units by themselves.
"The officer's safety can be jeopardized if there are not two officers on the scene," said Bradford.
"When Councilman Bradford talks about having two persons in a car instead of just one, you can't do that unless you have the personnel," added Rep. Turner. His mayoral election opponent Bill King says Houston can have better policing without hammering taxpayers with a hike.
"The problem we have right now is a third of our police force is assigned to something other than investigation and patrol," said King. "We need to get our officers back out into the community and out of desk jobs."
King also added that since 2000, the volume of Houston residents paying taxes has doubled the HPD budget and yet, fewer police are on patrol.
Candidate Turner counters by saying we need plenty of new officers in the pipeline because nearly a third of the current force is already eligible for retirement.
The Houston mayoral runoff is scheduled for Dec. 12.