Saturday, July 08, 2006

Help Wanted - Retired HPD Officers

I got a kick out of reading about all the new part time jobs being offered to retired Houston Police Officers, something which came via my automatic email links with the HPROA. A few thoughts came to mind as I pondered the idea ( about half a second) of going back on the payroll of the City of Houston as a part time “helper”; for surely the positions being offered would be limited since were not talking about “commissioned officer” status.

The letter I read ( linked via title bar) emphasized that there was a limited amount of money to pay for this program and so there would be a limited amount of positions opened up for these “helpers” as I’ve labeled them. This looks like a dandy welfare program to assist retired officers, to keep them from having to work at Wal-Mart as greeters; but just how much job satisfaction would be involved, after all were talking about folks who served in positions requiring considerable skills when they wore the uniform?

The way I understand the offer, positions would be filled, such as uniform supply, clerical and such; much the same as positions that have been filled by commissioned officers who have been disabled physically or who have, how to put it delicately, who have questionable “judgment in the field” and should avoid public contact as a uniformed officer. Having the “good ole boy” system in place decides whether to have “damaged” officers removed from the payroll ( fired/indefinitely suspended ) or simply taken off the street and placed into a cubby hole where their influence and/or bad habits would be shielded from view.

“Chief Hurtt emphasized his intention to place part time officers in positions to best utilize their skills and experience. While noting that the department has positions on all shifts and days of the week for part time retired officers, he will do the best he can to place officers where they wish to work. A study is presently being undertaken to identify specific jobs, while the Chief has his staff determining how many positions the department has money to fund. A word of caution, I would suspect there will be a lot more positions through out the department that are needed than there is money to pay for them. As usual, the actual positions will be limited by the money that can be dedicated to these part time jobs.”

I suppose that Chief Hurtt intends to have many of these officers sitting around a card table, a Styrofoam cooler all iced down with an adult beverage off to one side, while they reminisce about the time So and So drove his police car into the bayou while chasing burglary suspects, “to best utilize their skills and experience”. The key to having a “cushy” part time retirement job, or for that matter, a real cushy job within the rank and file of the Department, is to make it appear that you are providing a real service to the citizens who are paying for that position while at the same time limiting the amount of heat generated by that position. After all, if there is no real need for any given position, then why pay anyone to do it? ( Define: Civil Servant )

Having funding to pay for positions is at the heart of this program, a reasonable and noteworthy step to take into account as the line forms in front of HPD Human Resource Division. If I understand this, the reason that part time slots have been made available is to permit those now serving in “support” positions to return to serving in the “front lines”, to bolster the sadly diminished ranks due to retirement of all things. So, we will be asking the physically impaired officers, those who limp or have damaged bodies (minds) to leave their support jobs and get back into the fight so it will look like there isn’t a manpower shortage of catastrophic proportions here in “River City”, as Professor Harold Hill would have said in the Music Man. I’d call that a flim-flam of the first order and call the Vice Division in to investigate were I in charge.

The City of Houston Police Department has a serious man power shortage, not just the line officer who patrols the street; but also the investigative and supervisory ranks as well. The short term fix, hiring qualified commissioned officers from outside the Department will put a small dent in that problem; however, the long term funding will remain at the heart of any hiring program. The need to hire police officers will require huge amounts of money that the City has yet to identify within the present budget or even the near future and so we might as well build some more castles in the air.

Maybe it’s time to take the gloves off and be honest about the revenue generating aspects of the Houston Police Department. Increase the “quota” ( shriek and squeal at the very mention of the word, ah!!!) of traffic tickets so that enough money begins flowing into the budget to pay for all those police officers which are needed, that and their health plan, the equipment to support them and lastly the funding for their retirement package which must also be added into the overall cost of hiring dedicated servants. It costs a lot of money to provide specialized service; why not use traffic tickets to pay for it all? Instead of using uniformed officers; however, limit that aspect of the Department to mechanized methods such as camera traffic ticket enforcement for violators of red lights at intersections, except in the case of accident investigations in progress or extreme instances observed by officers while they are patrolling the streets solely for the purposes of protecting the citizenry from bad guys.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am against the use of camera issued traffic tickets for running red lights, as has been authorized by the City and promoted by Chief Hurtt; however, once the decision has been made, and that has happened, I must stand behind that decision and uphold it. Think how much PR could be generated if/when the public viewed police officers primarily as “those good guys who protect us from bad guys” rather than “those jerks who had nothing better to do than write my wife a ticket for not wearing a seatbelt”.

Use the cameras enforcement money generating machines around the clock; they work every day of the year and never take lunch breaks, never get sick, never ask for vacation time and require absolutely no retirement incentives. That having been said, why be namby-pamby about installations at just a few intersections? Install them at intersections everywhere day and night until the money rolls in like an assembly line of Las Vegas slot machine. Once the public understands that all the money ( okay, a small percentage to be realistic) is being used to hire police officers, police officers who will protect them from the bad guys; move to the next logical step and get the City to authorize the use of cameras to issue traffic tickets for speeding violations too. Just think of revenue that could be generated by having an army of mechanized speed traps all over the city snapping pictures, mailing tickets and collecting fines; the thought boggles the mind.

I guess the bottom line to my article would be, “Don’t insult my dignity by offering me, a retired City of Houston Police Officer, welfare in the form of a meaningless handout and call it a job, a job that really doesn’t require vast sums of experience related to police work!” Any moron can hand out a pair of pants with a thin blue line, any moron can sit behind desk and push paper around, sharpen pencils and get coffee for the supervisor; you don’t need a retired police officer to get those jobs done. If there are jobs which require real police skills and knowledge, then hire these folks back as police officers with all the “fixin’s” that go with such a title of respect; if not then open those jobs up to the rest of the public and avoid the “good ole boy” style of doing business, that antiquated and yet ever prevalent system that has gone on for years at the Houston Police Department. Some folks have pride, others just show up for the paycheck.
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