Sheriff Defends Overtime Policy

Last month the Harris County Sheriff's Department paid close to a million dollars in overtime to deputies and detention officers. The sheriff is calling it a victory. Bill Stamps explains why.
840-thousand dollars in overtime in one month — a victory because it's the first time in years the Sheriff's Department hasn't paid more than a million dollars. Spokesman Alan Bernstein says some guards at the jail can make triple their salary in overtime, but he says Sheriff Garcia is working to bring those numbers down.

"The economy is down. County government has lower tax revenues. That's where we can make the most progress, because that's where the spending is taking place."


Bernstein says the county's hiring freeze hasn't allowed them to fill current vacancies. So even though they've made some structural changes that should help lower the overtime costs, they'll only be able to lower them so far.

"We will continue to pay large amounts of overtime to staff the jail according to state regulations and requirements until one or both things happen. One being the ability to hire more people and pay them straight time at starting out wages vs. overtime for veteran people and or a more significant reduction than we've already gotten in the number of inmates who are in jail."

The department estimates they'd have to hire about 350 new people in order to make overtime unnecessary. When asked what the chances of that happening anytime soon are, Bernstein responded, small.