Council grills El Paso police chief over internal staffing report

EL PASO, Texas - City Council members Tuesday grilled El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen over an internal report on the department's staffing levels and patrol officers.

The staffing report dated June 9 shows that as of 2015, there were 470 officers listed as "patrol," while in 2014 there had been 717 in the same category.

El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen said that drop wasn't any substantive change in the amount of officers actually patrolling or available to respond to calls, rather, a change in how the department was classifying officers.

Allen said this would better reflect how many officers are actually available, instead of lumping in tactical or crime scene officers into a single category.

Council also told Allen it was upset the report was only distributed internally within the department when it could have been very useful during the budget process weeks earlier.

Allen said the report was only intended for department purposes, since an agency reporting on it's own resources and needs could be viewed as biased. "We're the fox, and we're guarding the henhouse, and we've got feathers in our mouth," Allen said.

That explanation didn't totally satisfy District 2 City Rep. Jim Tolbert, who put the item on the agenda.  "I feel like this is a shell game," Tolbert said about the reclassification of patrol officers.

Tolbert asked that the police department include greater reporting of its staffing levels in it's quarterly financial reports to staff and council.

The report also indicated a constant drop in the number of officers in the department, going from 1,054 in 2013 to 1019 in 2014. The number fell to 1,005 in 2015.

City council has supported a plan to have a net increase of 30 officers every year after taking into account officers leaving or retiring. Some, like District 8 City Rep. Cortney Niland, said growing our police department needs to be a priority for council.

"You've got to put your money where your mouth is, or shut up," Niland said.

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