Possible fix on the way for HCSO’s slipping emergency response times

“Teledeputy” program will expand with federal funding

HOUSTON – The Harris County Sheriff’s Office is grappling with a serious issue as average emergency response times for “Priority 1″ calls have reportedly been taking too long.

In 2021, it would take HCSO 12 minutes and 47 seconds on average to answer Priority 1 calls. In 2022, the average response time was 14 minutes and 43 seconds.

By comparison, in 2022, HPD responded to Priority 1 emergency calls in six minutes and 14 seconds. Although it should be noted, HPD typically has to cover less territory with more manpower.

Nonetheless, the trend is not a good one. KPRC 2 Investigates wanted to know what accounts for the sliding times.

“The only place for expansion now is the unincorporated areas… so we’re getting more neighborhoods’ master-planned communities. Our staffing levels remain static but we’re having a big growth in population,” HCSO Communications Director David Klozik said.

On Tuesday at Harris County Commissioners Court, the county announced the fortification of a program already in use, the “Teledeputy.”

Teledeputies are licensed peace officers, deputies, who answer calls, by phone, and by video phone, from a desk.

The idea is to clear out lower priority calls so that deputies on the street can get to the bigger emergencies, or Priority 1 calls, more quickly.

The initial year of the program will be funded with federal “ARPA” dollars. The bulk of the funding will be used to pay deputies overtime so they can work “teledeputy” shifts.