Thursday, November 17, 2016

GUEST POST: Trepidation and Chronophobia …

Editor Note:  I got a request from a friend in law enforcement who asked to write a blog post focusing on changes at the HCSO.  

I have many friends who walk the halls of the CJC, conducting their daily business.  Some always seem to have a smile on their face, and some have that eternal scowl.  However, recently, I noticed that people’s nonverbal cues have become disheartening.  I work for another part of the justice system, and have been a part of the justice system for over 20 years.  I have been a part of quite a few regime changes, and have been an onlooker to several regime changes at the CJC.  

Murray has been quite eloquent, and has usually been on-point, in regards to the politics at the CJC.  However, even he realizes he is not an expert in the politics of the law enforcement side of the CJC.  So, I decided to step up to the computer and write some comments.

When Adrian Garcia took office years ago, those two words from the beginning of my post were very prevalent.  The Sheriff’s Office had gone through many years of the likes of Johnny Klevenhagen and Tommy Thomas.  The agency had gone through some tough times, with the fiscal problems with Commissioner’s Court, to a string of deputies losing their lives on duty.  But, the agency had some good times as well, through most of Sheriff’s Thomas’ tenure.  But, when Garcia took office, nobody had a clue that there were going to be as many problems that actually materialized.  From low morale to jail problems, budget cuts, to the department becoming more top-heavy than it had ever been, I watched as the HCSO went downhill, and fast.  But, then Garcia went to run for mayor and Ron Hickman was appointed.

Now, the general consensus was that we couldn’t do any worse than Garcia, even though the rank and file knew that Hickman came over from Precinct 4 Constable’s Office with some baggage.  But, in the short amount of time that Constable Hickman became Sheriff Hickman, I saw firsthand that many of the problems from the previous administration started to change.  People were generally happy to be a part of the Sheriff’s Office.  With the pending election, many employees of the HCSO started saying, not if, but when Hickman gets elected, the department will finally get back on the path to becoming one of the top law enforcement agencies in the State of Texas.  But, as Lee Corso says on Saturdays, “not so fast my friend.”  Hickman lost to Ed Gonzalez.  

Now, with the election over, I was immediately drawn to the following quote, “Those who don’t learn from history are destined to repeat it.”  For the rank and file of the Sheriff’s Office, we believe that we are back in 2008, with the promises being the same and the results starting to look more disastrous.

So, now when those of you who read Murray’s wonderful column, and thank you Murray for letting me hijack it for a time, walk through the CJC and see a deputy with a long face and a disconcerting scowl, you now have some insight into our plight.  So, for all my friends in the CJC, on both sides of the table, as well as my friends, brothers and sisters who wear the badge, please don’t forget that we are all in this together, whether you want to believe that or not.  Hopefully, we have learned from the past.


Anonymous said...

What happened to the Harris County Venting blog? It's been locked since way before the election.

Bernie Palmer said...

The biggest problem could be that, as in the Garcia administration, the commissioners will shut off (as much as possible) the budget dollars for the HCSO. This is just partisan politics I know, but I fear the Commissioner's Court will not financially support the new administration. Even if the administration turns out to be less than desirable, it still needs adequate funding to even have a chance at being effective.

Anonymous said...

I might think Hickman wrote the post, but all words are correctly spelled.

Anonymous said...

Given Hickman's preferential treatment of his inner circle, from Captain's getting to work as clerks for the same pay to friends being left loose even after DWI or charges have been filed, to letters written by the man himself in support of convicted deputy killers, most in the HCSO started off his reign by shaking their heads in disgust as he appointed all his buddies from Pct 4 to assume command staff roles, often in areas they had zero expertise in. The only criteria needed was to be a Hickman loyalist.

Then Hickman stood up to the BLM movement, publicly defended the deputies doing roadside strip searches for minor amounts of pot, and started going around telling deputies how he was pushing through 20% raises for them as soon as he was elected. Given Harris County doesn't pay very well compared to other cities in Texas, the rank & file lapped it up, many offering to put up campaign signs, attend political meetings with him, and take a chance on him; Hickman having been told early on that he couldn't strong arm these deputies like he did his deputy constables that lack civil service.

Those that did any sort of checking soon found the raise he was promising was merely a slightly modified version of Adrian Garcia's proposal that Commissioner's Court cut back several years prior, some of the paperwork not even changed to replace Hickman's name. Mention that to any of the deputies and they go into denial mode, Hickman supporters telling all the world how newcomer Gonzalez and Garcia were the very best of friends, how Garcia was going to be appointed Major, and all sorts of untrue rumors all designed to garner votes.

Of course the deputies supported Hickman given his policy changes resulted in tens of millions in overtime landing in their pockets, the possibility that they could turn back the clock to a time when less accountability was common, and they might get a pass like the Pct 4 deputy running their property room having years of excellent personnel ratings while that entire operation sank ever deeper into the annals of history. Now Gonzalez gets to come in and clean up while all the employees have been programmed to think he's Adrian Pt 2, a falsehood so bold that anyone buying into it should be ashamed.

Some deputies were even telling their friends to make sure they didn't vote for the guy that came from HPD, forgetting perhaps that Hickman started his career with the city and couldn't even promote to sergeant in his dozen years with them before he was shown the door, the man never showing any success there as he bounced from division to division as a first rate "know it all" type that few cared to work with. Gonzalez has stated he's not going to approve those roadside strip searches, doesn't favor pouring endless amounts of overtime at problems, and has even shown a willingness to consider long time members of the HCSO for the resulting command staff openings as a way of gaining their expertise in a way Hickman never even considered.

Commissioner's Court will tighten the purse strings as they did for Garcia and lay the blame at Gonzalez's feet, the sheriff elect already planning on trying to hire some of the massive wave of HPD retirements seeking to obtain a second pension given their upcoming changes present them with a "leave or lose" proposition. Several HPD assistant chiefs have already approached Gonzalez for openings, their decades of experience and advanced college degrees a few steps up from the bare bones types Hickman brought with him but Gonzalez maintains he still wants to use as much in house experience as he can if he can find the right people.

Jason Truitt said...

Jesus Christ to think that things should go back to the good old days of Tommy Thomas is pure blue-line bullshit.

Do us all a favor, and instead of crying in your beer on the internet, just quit your job if you hate it so much. And save me the "I do it as a service to the people" BS. The policies you miss were directly adverse to the people.

Anonymous said...

Jason, are you a Sheriff's deputy or a lawyer? I don't think the author was talking about going back to the days of Tommy Thomas.... I think what this person was trying to say was that, with all the upheaval going on, with the bad things that happened with the Thomas administration, with the bad things that happened with the Garcia administration, just the sheer uncertainty of what is going to happen with this next administration. People just don't know....

Jason Truitt said...

When he says "But, the agency had some good times as well, through most of Sheriff’s Thomas’ tenure.", he is clearly lamenting the state of things today, usually when someone from a different political party is in charge, and saying that they were better under Thomas.

You have to remember that a lot of folks who want the likes of Thomas, or miss Johnny Holmes, think that there were no "bad things" going on. Or maybe there were, but they weren't "that bad" or don't care because they were doing God's work so a "bad thing" as the means justifies the ends. Or maybe they just thought the sheriff and DA "had their back" no matter what they did. Because we all know that "having your back" is the most important thing in criminal justice, and not the people you are supposed to be "serving".

This is just another cop crying because cops get a little scrutiny nowadays, whereas in the past they got away with things with impunity. Cry me a river.

Jason Truitt said...

Look fellas, I get a little grumpy from time to time (that one's for you, Murray), and this topic is one of my triggers. Clearly there are good officers out there. Clearly it is a dangerous job.

But until all of the good cops I keep hearing about do something to stop all of the bad cops I keep seeing, then all cops go into the same basket for me. I can't presume the officer that has pulled me over or who wants to come into my home is a good cop, because by the time I find out differently, it's too late. And I live a relatively clean life, have relatively little to hide, and would not be in a class of people that would be presumed suspicious when pulled over.

Still--when cops start changing from within, maybe I'll believe they care more about the service they are supposed to offer than their own self-interest, and being supported from their superiors no matter what they do.

Anonymous said...

Who is Gonzales bringing in as his command staff? That has a lot to do with how well he gets along with the Commissioners.

Anonymous said...

We are not there to "serve" - our job as defined by statue is to enforce the laws of the State of Texas, period.