Houston Police Officers’ Union leaders are warning the public that the City of Houston isn’t safe due to police staffing shortages and the city allowing suspected criminals to walk free.

The union’s executive director, Ray Hunt, told Fox News that he’s never seen so many “suspected murderers and capital murderers who are walking the streets of Houston out on multiple bonds.”

“I would not let my wife or my kids walk down the streets of Houston at midnight under any circumstances,” said Hunt. “It is not safe in major cities in 2024, and it’s not safe here.”

Hunt, along with the union’s President Douglas Griffith, is sounding the alarm as the Houston Police Department struggles to recruit and retain officers. 

“Who in the heck wants to be a police officer in 2024?” questioned Hunt. “When every single thing that they’re doing is going to be second-guessed by their body-worn camera that someone can watch three or four times to determine whether or not that officer made the right split-second decision. I don’t know who would want to do that. I could not encourage any of my family to come be a police officer in 2024 with the situation that’s going on.”

Griffith pointed to a Sam Houston State University report from 2014 that showed the Houston Police Department had a shortage of 1,500 officers in the city. 

“In 2014, it said if Houston was staffed like Chicago, we would have 9,602 sworn officers. At that time we had about 5,600 – 4,000 short. Now we have just over 5,000. We’ve already lost officers since then,” explained Hunt.

Due to the shortage, Griffith also pointed out that officers won’t be able to investigate every case they come across. 

“A survey of investigative division commanders revealed excessively high numbers of cases with leads that were not investigated in 2013 due to lack of personnel,” said Hunt. “This was 2014 they’re writing this. For burglary and theft, nearly 15,000 cases were suspended – 3,000 assault cases in the homicide division, 3,000 hit-and-run cases for that year. They knew that. Everyone knew that we were short-handed, and now everyone wants to say, ‘Wow, these officers are lazy. They’re not doing your job.’ Completely untrue.” 

Griffith also signaled that the court system is “not doing their job.”

“Their contention is that we can’t hold somebody. We have to give everybody a bond, yes, the first time. Once they violate that bond, they can be held in jail until they go to court again. And we get people on six, seven, eight, nine bonds at one time. And that’s a problem that we have to fix in the courts.”

Other cities across Texas have also been experiencing police staffing shortages. 

In November, Texas Scorecard reported on the Dallas Police Department experiencing longer response times to 911 calls, as a result of staffing shortages. It had been reported that the Dallas PD was maintaining fewer than 3,200 officers, while a city analysis showed a municipality the size of Dallas should have a staffing level of around 4,000 officers. 

The City of Austin has also had staffing shortages, resulting in citizens experiencing longer wait times due to the “Defund the Police” movement in 2020 and the Austin City Council’s vote to massively decrease the department’s budget.  

Texas Scorecard reached out to HPD, but they declined to comment on the union’s statements.

Emily Medeiros

Emily graduated from the University of Oklahoma majoring in Journalism. She is excited to use her research and writing skills to report on important issues around Texas.