Just how many bike officers work in Kingwood came up for discussion at the October Public Safety Committee meeting.
“It came out on the local Facebook page a couple of weeks ago that the bike patrol was down to three officers. Is that correct?” asked Brian Danneman of Elm Grove Village.
Officer Matt Vandergraff, the supervising officer for the bike patrol, said there is a reduction in the number of officers.
“The bike squad currently has four officers. We just conducted interviews and there is going to be a fifth officer joining us Monday (Oct. 19). Unfortunately, one of our guys is injured and he should be back by next week,” Vandergraff said.
“Will that bring the total to six?” Danneman asked.
“No, when everyone is healthier and back and the additional officer joins us on Monday, we will have five officers and myself. We occasionally have others that will ride with us on a day off. But starting Monday, we will have five official bike officers and myself as supervisor,” Vandergraff said.
Danneman asked if the staffing level had been reduced to five as he had always thought there were more, perhaps up to eight officers assigned to the patrol. He also asked Dee Price of Sand Creek if she remembered the details of the agreement originally reached with the City of Houston when HPD took over security responsibilities from Harris County Precinct 4 as a result of annexation.
“Six. We have always had six,” Price said. She explained that Kingwood had six when Harris County provided the bike patrol security, and that level was what was agreed to with HPD.
“They agreed to keep it at six but the six does include the sergeant as an officer,” Price said.
Danneman said he could remember when the patrol had more than six, maybe up to eight officers. Vandergraff indicated that years back, there were two bike shifts a day: a day shift and an evening shift rather than the way it is scheduled today with a single shift per day. He also explained that at one point, the patrol may have been at a level of seven officers before one retired. Kingwood Station Commander Megan Howard clarified the current official staffing situation.
“Unfortunately, we only have so much of a pie to slice up and to cover all of our obligations, including timely call to service requests. A couple of years ago, the department went through what’s called a leveling exercise which was a large-scale evaluation of staffing across the entire department. At that time, there was a need to reallocate and make sure our staffing was where the highest priorities were. So unfortunately, our bike unit is where it’s at right now and that’s not going to change anytime in the near future, but at least we are back to our full staff of five officers and one sergeant now,” she said.
“Kingwood Division is exempt from what’s called proportionate staffing. Other divisions have to hold vacancies open proportionately so that no division is hurting more than the others. But they know we cannot afford to be staffed lower than we are. As a result, we are at 100% of what is allocated to us,” she said.
Danneman asked if the entire staffing allocation for the Kingwood Division could be provided to the committee members. He indicated his village had asked him to request the information about staffing in Kingwood.
“Nobody on this committee thinks you guys are doing a bad job. We understand there are bureaucracies to deal with, or budgets or funding,” Committee Chairman Marshall Settegast of Mills Branch Village said. However, he explained that he and the committee wanted to better understand where they would have to go to get that sixth bike officer assigned in order to get back to the level before the bike officer retired. Danneman and the other committee members concurred.
“I would also like to add that Officer Morales has been wonderful. The job he does for us is fantastic,” Danneman said. Sgt. Alan Morales, as HPD’s Kingwood community affairs officer, serves as the main contact point between the committee and HPD. He provides the crime statistics and other police updates to the committee every month.
The next KSA Public Safety Committee Meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 18 at 7 p.m. at the South Woodland Hills Community Room. The public is invited to attend. Due to the current COVID-19 situation, people are encouraged to call the Kingwood Association Management office at 281-358-5192 a day or two prior to confirm if the meeting is still scheduled as planned or if it will take place as a Zoom teleconference.