HITCHCOCK

Hitchcock Independent School District is forming its own police department, just a month after a gunman killed 10 and wounded more than a dozen others at neighboring Santa Fe High School.

“We are still working out all of the details,” Superintendent Carla Vickroy said. “In light of the increase in school violence, we are looking for ways to increase security for our schools.”

The district’s board of trustees voted unanimously to move school security to an in-house police department that will be formed before the next school year, Trustee Ted Robinson Jr. said.

The city had supplied police officers to the school district. City officials had been pushing the district to sign a new contract that would have increased the yearly cost of providing two officers from about $88,000 to about $137,000, Mayor Dorothy Childress said.

Although the city’s request affected the thinking, the decision wasn’t made overnight, Robinson said.

“It’s something we’ve been contemplating doing for more than two years,” Robinson said.

The plan is to hire a police sergeant and two officers and have all three of them patrol district campuses, Robinson said.

By creating a district police department, officials would be able to implement their own school-specific procedures and protocols, Robinson said.

The city’s police department could also be strained by recent cuts and adding an additional officer would help with security, Robinson said.

City officials more than three months ago made deep budget cuts that included four police department layoffs, leaving the department with 19 staff members, including 13 police officers and six support staff members. Despite the cuts, the police department was still operating with a $30,000 deficit, Childress said in an earlier interview.

One option to reduce the deficit was a new contract with the school district for the two officers assigned for campus security, officials said.

The average police officer costs the city about $60,000 a year in salaries and benefits, and the school district in the 2000-2001 school year paid the city $145,000 for two resource officers, records show.

But the amount the district pays each year incrementally declined to just $88,000 most recently, leaving the city to cover about $32,000 of the cost, Childress said.

Officials attributed the decreased payment amount to a nine-month contract, instead of a yearly contract, because the district didn’t need officers during the summer, Commissioner Monica Cantrell said.

“I hate it,” Cantrell said. “But that’s just how it is. What the city was proposing is unreasonable. It’s very sad that it came to this, but I don’t blame the district at all.”

Many details of the district’s police department aren’t yet decided, but the cost should be about $30,000 more than what the city was proposing, Robinson said.

“The only real start-up cost is cars,” Robinson said.

Childress initially said she was loath to eliminate the two officers’ positions, but that if she couldn’t reach a new agreement with the district, their positions would be eliminated.

Childress was not available to be interviewed Wednesday because of a family emergency, she said through a representative.

“We will post the positions when we are ready to hire and anyone can apply for those positions,” Vickroy said. “We will certainly consider the officers that we already have, as well as any officer that applies.”

School safety has increasingly become a topic of conversation in Galveston County in the month and two days since 10 people were killed inside Santa Fe High School. Several area school districts have formed security committees to discuss school safety.

The Hitchcock school district still will have to go through a process before it can form its own police department, said Gretchen Grigsby, spokeswoman for the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement.

“It goes through our agency and involves an application process and an on-site visit to make sure statutory minimums are met,” Grigsby said.

School district police departments must adhere to the section of the Texas Occupation Code about forming law enforcement agencies, which includes having an evidence room and a communications center, among other items, Grigsby said.

Galveston and Santa Fe are the two county school districts that already have their own police departments. The sheriff’s department provides campus security for several other school districts in the county.

Matt deGrood: 409-683-5230; matt.degrood@galvnews.com

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(17) comments

Ron Shelby

How easy is it to hire "well trained" police officers for only 9 months of the year?

Samuel Collins III

This will be much more expensive than simply renegotiating the contract with the City of Hitchcock. It is sad that our school tax dollars are being wasted to try and prove a point by not resigning a contract with the City of Hitchcock. Yes we are all on board for staff and student safety. At first the argument was the city contract increase was too much. Now we are willing to spend much more and many years of under paying for services. How long had Hitchcock ISD had a nine month contract when the standard is twelve months? What is the expected total cost on setting up a police department? Is there still time to renegotiate with the city?

Paul Hyatt

What is sad is that our City spent and spent and spent until they had no more to spend and THEN they decided to start cutting back on expenses.... There is more fat to be cut at City hall instead of cutting our police department back. Besides why should the HISD trust what the City is going to do since they can not even seem to run their budget correctly without over spending it....

Samuel Collins III

The PD was the largest part of the city budget and had the most fat. No one is intentionally attacking the police department or police officers. It is unfortunate that the narrative that somehow Mayor Childress is anti-police Is being pushed. She is one vote on the city council and working to help clean up the problems. Without the school contract the two additional officers are not needed by the city. Those officers are good people with families and responsibilities. No one wants to see anyone lose their job. I still think HISD needs to reconsider their decision and if HISD is unhappy with the service they received from HPD they should have complained to Chief Hamm.

Comment deleted.
George Croix

Good luck to you for your efforts. I spent many along shift trying to straighten out a great big mess handed over at shift change, not helped at all by people Bg about what we’d been handed or worse calling and raising heck with me for not fixing in 30 minutes what took 12 hours to screw up.
I eventually started having radio and phone ‘trouble’ each time a mess was in play, knowing the complaints would never come help anyway.
We play the cards we’re dealt, not yesterday’s hand

Comment deleted.
Samuel Collins III

Thank you for your post Mayor Childress.

Comment deleted.
Paul Hyatt

Most people who see that their revenue is not meeting their expenses cut back on expenses before they blow 2 million dollars in their savings accounts. Cuts should have been mandated LONG before we blew our savings accounts to almost zero....I love the fact that NO BODY is responsible when government is involved. I do wonder if no one is responsible then who is minding the store? Is it NO ONE?

JLM JLM

Mr. Hyatt,
Your comment on how all the sudden the previous Mayor got sick. until you know my dad's health issues I would appreciate you not making the statement. For a matter of fact my father has been sick for awhile and instead of him taking care of himself he was more worried about the city. It was his doctors suggestion that he resign and as a family we felt it in his best interest. Believe me he didn't want to resign. It's sad that when he was in office he spent more time at City Hall than he did with his family. So until you know his full medical background I would appreciate yours and everyone else's comments kept to yourself.
Past Mayor's daughter,
Lisa Matranga-Blakeman

Rusty Schroeder

Lisa I see no where in these comments about your dad getting sick, and this is a comment section fyi.

Martin Connor

It was in Sam's editorial.

Martin Connor

The comment section of Sam's editorial.

Rusty Schroeder

Thanks Martin, found it and read the comment and Sam's editorial. Will say I think Sam is a positive in change for Hitchcock, I think he and I would get along. He knows fixing Hitchcock's problems won't be easy, but it sure seems like he is a willing participant and voice.

Richard Williams

Are'nt we discussing the school districts absolutly stupid discission to form thier on police force. As if they don't waste enough of the taxpayer dollars, they come up with this! Hitchcock has the highest tax rate of any school district in the county. Maybe, they need to be audited also to see where the money goes? They seem to believe all the taxpayers in Hitchcock are independently wealthly or something! They're ranking in the state has a lot to be desired! I see another tax rate increase coming next year. Maybe they shoud approach those businessmen who volunteered to bail the city out to help them out also!

JLM JLM

Mr. Schroeder,
It was in the comments earlier because I personally read it. It said to the effect that all of a sudden he became ill.
Lisa

Jack Reeves

I have been a police officer and a public school administrator. I am reasonably sure that the city, the police department and the school district are sincere in their various approaches to this issue. But, I do feel that budget and supervision issues aside, officers who are dedicated to and paid by the District would be a valuable resource. Being assigned to the District would enable them concentrate on school security and management issues, become more familiar the student population and to acquire a unique and comprehensive knowledge of the various campuses. Having hired city police officers for school duty , I have found that this can sometimes leave the school with a void in security as those officers unintentionally place the needs of the city, at large, first. This is a normal reaction because they "work" for the city. If the Superintendent could find a way to secure officers from the city whose sole job was the District's campuses, that might be a viable option. Just a thought. May God Bless all of you in your efforts to protect our young people.

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