This fall, local law enforcement officers will trade out their brown uniforms for a new set in blue as the Buda Police Department comes online.
City officials say the new department will go live on Oct. 20, following a month-long training period for new hires.
The city had been paying about $725,000 annually to the Hays County Sheriff’s Office for law enforcement services, but moved last year to terminate the county contract and build a home-grown police force. The city’s operation is budgeted to run at about $700,000 annually, with most of the funds going to personnel. The county began providing free law enforcement to the city three months ago.
Buda Police Chief Bo Kidd, who came on in April to develop the new department, said he’ll be hiring seven police officers and one detective. Kidd previously led the county-run Buda Patrol.
“With a small department like this, each and every person that we bring will determine how successful this agency will be,” Kidd said. “Every person is instrumental. I’m bringing some fantastic people and I expect great things from them.”
The city will pay its officers on a scale similar to sheriff’s deputies. By hiring officers who are already familiar with the Buda area – many of them poached from other local law enforcement agencies, including the old Buda Patrol – Kidd said the new force can hit the ground running.
“I think we’re in a very unique situation where we’re actually going to start a brand new department and be able to start with all experienced officers,” Kidd said.
Original estimates put boots on the ground as early as July, but city officials say renovations were delayed on the city-owned building on Houston Street that will serve as the new police station.
Buda officers will patrol the streets 24-7, with shifts from 6 a.m. – 6 p.m., 6 p.m. – 6 a.m., and an overlapping shift from 2 p.m. – 2 a.m.
At least initially, the Hays County Sheriff’s Office will handle dispatching for the Buda police, though the city may discuss the possibility of contracting with the city of Kyle’s dispatching center. Buda’s population is currently too small to get its own Public Safety Answering Point, where 911 calls are routed, Kidd said.
The county is initially not going to charge Buda for dispatching services.
The new police force may also look to the county for help in investigating some major crime scenes, Kidd said.
“The county has tools, equipment and personnel that are better equipped to handle processing a major crime scene,” Kidd said. “At least for the first few years until we can grow, we may lean on them from time to time.”
Buda sees primarily non-violent crimes such as vehicle break-ins, criminal mischief, shoplifting and credit card abuse.
The city has purchased four marked patrol vehicles and two unmarked units, all Dodge Chargers. The new department is also securing a $50,000 federal technology grant to equip the police cruisers with computers, with the help of U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett.
“What’s happening in Buda is an important part of what has made Hays County the 15th fastest growing county in the nation and a place that families can feel safe calling home,” Doggett said. “This federal support for local law enforcement is a part of enhancing that security.”
The city developed the contractual law enforcement plan in 2007 with former sheriff Allen Bridges bringing in additional officers dedicated to the Buda area.
by JEN BIUNDO