Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia, joined by his Command Staff, presented his proposed FY2016 budget to the Harris County Commissioners Court, Thursday.
“Lessons learned from Ferguson and New York expose the need for the relentless training and education of our deputies,” said Garcia, “However, the job of maintaining a modern police agency comes at a cost.”
Sheriff Garcia asked the Harris County Commissioner’s Court for an additional 2.3% increase over their proposed 2016 budget for the largest Sheriff’s Office and County Jail facility in the state.
“…[T]oday I will ask for an additional 2.3% to execute the duties of our agency. Anything less would signal surrender when our constituents asked for service and leadership,” stated Sheriff Garcia during his opening remarks.
Good morning and thank you for this opportunity to present the proposed Harris County Sheriffs’ Office budget for fiscal year 2016.
As sworn peace officers, the men and women of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office are duty bound custodians of the public’s trust. These are trying times for the brave individuals that make the choice to swear an oath to protect the lives and property of our citizens.
From a small town in Missouri, to the streets of New York; from Ohio to California; and right here in Harris County, the national discourse on constitutional policing has made it ever clear that the people are calling upon us to enforce the law justly with respect for human rights and dignity. Lessons learned from Ferguson and New York expose the need for the relentless training and education of our deputies. However, the job of maintaining a modern police agency comes at a cost.
Nationwide, law enforcement agencies are challenged by the yoke of strained budgets, limited community resources and a willingness to make the tough decisions to see through these difficult hours.
Yet every day, men and women throughout the country, and here at home, don a bullet proof vest on their way to serve the communities they love.
When challenges present themselves, our duty as custodians of the public trust is to retool and reconstitute our operations to face those challenges.
The budget before you today is a small but necessary step toward that direction. Thank you for the proposed 5% increase in our 2016 budget, however today I will ask for an additional 2.3% to execute the duties of our Agency. Anything less would signal surrender when our constituents asked for service and leadership.
This budget is one of necessity allowing for the
• Optimization of the S.O.’s law enforcement capabilities
• Responsible and compassionate care for the inmates in our custody
• Continued reduction of medical contract costs
• And enhancements to the security of our Harris County Courts.
These improvements are critical to fulfilling the promise of the Harris County Sheriffs’ Core Values:
• To merit and maintain the public’s trust
• Embrace and deliver professional service
• Protect our citizens with honor and courage
• Exemplify ethical conduct at all times
• Develop, encourage and care for our Sheriff’s Office Family.
Despite the unique challenges that presented themselves during fiscal year 2015, we are (once again) on target to finish the year within our adjusted budget. I’ll remind you that this is the fourth consecutive year we’ve done so, accompanied by over 11$2 million in operational savings since 2009.
Today I propose a budget that represents a 7.3% increase over our adjusted FY2015 budget. That increase reflects the projected 7.3% increase in county revenues as presented during a mid-year review by our own Budget Management Office.
Our population has grown at exponential rates over the course of the last decade, and we know full well that trend will continue into the future. Demand for service by our constituents has continued to expand, and a strain on our ability to enforce the law ever deepens. Pursuant to the measured needs of our workforce, we plan to add 102 new deputies and 10 new investigators to the cadre of officials protecting our community.
Our duty to protect life extends beyond the streets of Harris County, behind the walls of our jail. The charge to provide for the care, custody and control of our inmates has been tried and tested in recent months. Now more than ever, a reassessment of our operations and a tactical change to our procedures is called for. Our new budget will allow me to allocate resources and manpower to the newest bureau under my command; the Jail Compliance and Inspections Bureau is tasked with the relentless inspection of jail standards, and the standards of care provided to men and women incarcerated in our facility. These allowances will aid in the prevention of future suicides, and equip Detention Officers and Deputies with specialized training to contend with their difficult and dangerous duties. The modest increase in the budget will allow me to hire 47 additional detention officer positions, answering the call of our suicide prevention study, and fully staff the cell extraction and inspection teams.
Medical care for our inmates has traditionally come by way of costly contract labor. With an investment in full time licensed vocational nurses and physicians we have continued to cut the costs of prohibitively expensive contractors. The proposed budget before you will allow for these fiscally responsible hiring practices to continue. Thusly, we are requesting 20 additional LVNS, one additional doctor, and the funds to cover a forecasted increase in our contract with MHMRA of Harris County.
I have long been an advocate for reforming our State’s system for the treatment of the mentally ill. The criminalization of mental illness forces sick people into environments ill equipped to provide the care and treatment required of their disease. The Harris County Jail is well known as the de facto mental health care provider for our community, and it should not be so. The permanent solutions must come from Austin, and until that time, we are continuously forced to contend with the financial challenge that treating the community’s mentally ill produces.
This is why I have worked to develop systems to keep the mentally ill from ever coming to jail to begin with. In just shy of two years, Our Crisis Intervention Response Teams have issued over 2,000 Emergency Detention Orders and have effectively diverted nearly 800 mentally ill persons from coming to the county jail.
Investing in the personnel on the street level that can divert these expenditures from occurring at the jail is not just fiscally wise, but morally imperative.
Lastly, we have born witness to the need for increased security in all of our county buildings, none more pressing than the Harris County Courts. Deputies transport hundreds of inmates between the jails and the courts on a daily basis. Thousands of our citizens occupy the hallways and court rooms of the Criminal Justice Center, and the need for their security is paramount. We’ve been asked to contribute to a broad security plan that calls for 11 additional deputy positions in the courts, one that this budget will accommodate.
As we assess the needs of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, we must consider the sacred obligation of our agency. Our deputies, detention officers, nurses, doctors and civilian experts heed the call to protect our most vulnerable and needy populations. The job is of critical import in today’s world, and is sadly met with its equal share of challenges.
In spite of those challenges, I am confident and hopeful for our future. More than at any other time in our history, our personnel stand poised as a modern, 21st century law enforcement agency; one that given the resources and will can lead the state and the country in the enforcement of law and justice.
I respectfully submit this budget for your thoughtful consideration, and thank you for your time. – Sheriff Adrian Garcia