Local

HPD to make major changes

Friday, February 08, 2008

For the first time, Houston's top cop talks to Eyewitness News about plans to change the way his department does business and meet the demands of a growing city.

Some wonder if it's money that would be better spent hiring officers.

The plan consolidates several HPD buildings, including those on Travis and Reisner. And it replaces the troubled crime lab and property room. We've been telling you about problems there for months.

It's an expensive plan, $250 million. But the city has been working on this project since last March and they're hoping to complete the new facility as early as 2011 with a $250 million price tag.

Houstonian Alvaro Gomez can think of better ways to spend the money.

"Use the money for more police officers," said Gomez. "Its better.""

But given the conditions police are currently working in, Chief Harold Hurtt says now is the time to move.

"It is not a building like 1200 Travis, which was built to be an office building," said Chief Hurtt.

Under the current proposal, five existing HPD buildings would be sold -- 1200 Travis, which houses administration and investigations, three facilities on Reisner, which house the city jail, central patrol, and transportation, along with 33 Artesia, which houses maintenance and communication.

The city is hoping to make more than $70 million on sale. The general services department would have to come up with the rest.

"Not only is it a nice place to work, it's a place where we can be more effective and efficient in providing services," said Chief Hurtt.

The Houston Police Officer's Union believes it's worth the money.

"It's created more problems than it's done good and it's time to move on to the next step," said Mark Clark with the Houston Police Officer's Union.

Among the benefits, the chief says, would be a new crime lab and property room, replacing the troubled ones HPD currently has.

"The crime lab is going to be in there," said Chief Hurtt. "We're going to be able to have a top notch crime lab center."

But the city still hasn't said where the money would come from. Facing a police shortage, Cheif Hurtt says crime fighting as well as more officers remain top priorities.

"Those are two focuses right now and I don't see that changing anytime in the near future," said Chief Hurtt.

In three weeks, the Houston city council will vote to fund a pre-design study that will cost about $600,000. We're told within six months, we should begin seeing actual renderings.

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