Letter to the Editor: Response to Budget Shortfall
In response to the May Hyattsville Life and Times article “City Proposes Budget with $5.8 million shortfall,” I’d like to provide some clarification on the city’s police department budget. The article notes the police budget is increased for fiscal year 2024, with the majority of the increase allocated to the Investigations Division. The article also notes, “The staffing shift is not reflected in police department organizational charts submitted with the FY 2023 and FY 2024 budget presentations.” This information is correct, but the phrasing could be misconstrued to appear the department is not being transparent about the use of funds.
As Hyattsville’s chief of police, I want to assure our community that transparency is a top priority for our department. Since I took this role in 2021, I’ve been reviewing departmental policies and procedures to identify areas of improvement. One major focus of my leadership has been correctly staffing the department, so all officers are properly supported in their work and less susceptible to burnout. Law enforcement agencies across the country are seeing talented staff leave for better-paying jobs both inside and out of the profession, and their colleagues who remain end up overburdened and unable to serve their communities to the best of their ability.
The police department introduced several new cost initiatives to attract and retain talented officers in the last fiscal year. This included a streamlined hiring process, financial incentives and salary adjustments, best-in-class trainings, and access to unique benefits like the Mental Health and Wellness Check-In Program. I am glad to say that we are seeing the results of these efforts, with several well-qualified officers recently added to our ranks.
The FY 2024 budget increase reflects a continuation of the initiatives described above and several others. The organizational charts described in the May article have not changed, but their corresponding cost centers in the city’s budget have been reorganized to better align with the departmental activity in each police division.
I understand this results in a visual disconnect between the named budget items and the staffing charts. As I continue to work at improving our department’s fiscal responsibility and efficiency, I will likely propose additional changes to the rest of our city leadership team to make this more transparent. In the meantime, we are focused first and foremost on getting our staff onboarded, trained and into the community.
I hope this provides some reassurance and visibility into our process. If you have further questions about the department, please email HPDPIO@hyattsville.org. Community members are also welcome to join our monthly Police and Public Safety Committee meetings, held on the second Wednesday of each month. Details are at hyattsville.org/calendar.
Jarod J. Towers
Jarod J. Towers is chief of the Hyattsville Police Department.