LH Police ask for two sergeant positions, three vehicles in new budget

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By Rachel Madison

The Liberty Hill Police Department asked for two new sergeant positions and three new fully-equipped police vehicles for the 2021-22 fiscal year during a special budget meeting with the Liberty Hill City Council on June 9.

Police Chief Royce Graeter said his department needs two new sergeants for a number of reasons, including always having a supervisor on duty.

“We currently have two sergeants, and we’re asking for two more,” Graeter said. “Having additional sergeants allows a supervisor to be on at all times. Right now, if something happens when one of our sergeants is off, our officers have to call and wake them up.”

He added that having a sergeant on duty at all times will also boost officer safety because a sergeant will always be available to go to a call if needed. Graeter said hiring two additional sergeants also sets the department’s infrastructure up for the growth Liberty Hill is experiencing, because each sergeant can supervise multiple officers if needed.

“This way each squad would have its own sergeant, and when we grow and need to add officers, the infrastructure is already there to put them in place,” Graeter said.

Currently, the sergeants on staff each supervise two squads of police officers who work 12-hour shifts during the day or night.

Graeter also asked for three new fully equipped patrol units, one for each of the new sergeants, as well as a spare in case a department vehicle gets into an accident or becomes unusable.

“Those are the only things I’m asking for in this budget forum, and it’s really to reduce liability for the City,” Graeter said. “It’s a whole lot cheaper to have guys out there making sure our officers are making good decisions than it is to take on a lawsuit because something goes wrong. You’ve got to make sure you’re on point, following the rules and doing the right thing.”

The role of a sergeant is to provide overall supervision for the officers under his or her command, including ensuring compliance with department policies, procedures and regulations; monitoring productivity and performance of officers; providing first-line supervision; monitoring training needs and conducting field training; and monitoring activity and the deployment of officers, among other tasks.

“Our sergeants are the ones who are trained up, and have that experience and time on the streets, which increases officer safety,” Graeter said. “They provide overall supervision for officers under their command. They are really the most important positions on the patrol side of the house.”

Graeter broke down the costs of the police vehicles, their equipment and the equipment needed to outfit the new sergeants and pay their salaries.

The average pay range for patrol sergeants is between $60,000 and $75,000 annually. The Liberty Hill Police Department pays $70,000 annually before benefits. Graeter estimated the total for two new sergeants, as well as their benefits, training and equipment, would be $190,500.

He estimated the total for the three new fully-equipped patrol vehicles to be $226,140. Each of the vehicles, typically Chevrolet Tahoes, cost about $33,000, while equipment to outfit each vehicle costs approximately $42,000. Every officer’s vehicle will have different equipment based on preference, but most is standard, such as the camera system, radar system, computer and storage boxes, Graeter added.

“I’ll never ask for anything that I don’t need, and the community needs these guys,” Graeter said. “We’ll be getting more quality work done out there on the street, making sure everyone is safe and the community is treated right.”

No decisions are being made on budget requests for the 2021-22 fiscal year at this time. The city council is hosting a series of budget workshops throughout the summer before finalizing the 2021-22 fiscal year’s budget.

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