Houston City Leaders Back Bill Hiring Veterans to Police Force

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Houston City Leaders Back Bill Hiring Veterans to Police Force

Houston city leaders are expressing support for a bill U.S. Senator John Cornyn filed to incentivize hiring police officers with military experience.

It’s a hiring process the Houston Police Department already does. Officer Jesse Medina is a prime example.

Medina, a 2009 graduate from Morton Ranch High School, came home one day and told his mother he’d joined the Marine Corps.

“She wasn’t too happy,” Medina said. “But she couldn’t say no at that point.”

Following boot camp and infantry school, Medina was stationed at Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in California.

In December 2011, Medina’s second tour in Afghanistan in as many years ended while on foot patrol.

“I was hit,” Medina said. “I was taken out of there pretty quick. Helo (helicopter) came and got me out.”

Wounded in combat, the Marine recovered in San Antonio. He later turned in his camouflage for blue last June.

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“This was the closest thing that’s similar,” Medina said. “I know it has a lot of difference but it’s similar to military life, so that’s what interested me in doing it.”

Medina graduated from the Houston Police Academy in January. He joins a department that’s between 800 and 1,500 officer short per the Houston Police Officers’ Union.

“Obviously, we’re understaffed,” said Captain Tad Pando. “That’s no secret.”

Captain Pando is part of HPD’s Recruiting Division.

“We’re understaffed, and we didn’t get there overnight, and we’re not going to fix it overnight," Pando said.

Thirty percent of Houston’s police force is military veterans. Captain Pando called veterans great police candidates because they already have structure, and like Medina, have experienced adversity.

“Shortly after the blast, I was on the ground,” Medina said. “I lifted it up, and it wasn’t there. (It was) pretty easy to tell I lost it.”

Medina’s right leg was amputated from the knee down.

“No matter if I could have four legs, nobody likes running but it’s part of the program,” Medina joked.

If passed, Cornyn’s bill would allow law enforcement agencies to be reimbursed up to $25,000 per veteran hired.

“It’s a win-win situation for both the Houston Police Department and the veteran,” Pando said.

“I’m having a blast,” Medina said of his new career. “Every day is a little bit different.”

Critics of similar bills proposed have expressed concern about hiring veterans as police officers because they may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health problems.

Via Josh Marshall with KHOU