The database is an extremely handy website available to all prosecutors and apparently, all (but one, now) law enforcement agencies in Harris County. The way it works is that it gives the user the ability to enter the name of person and that person's entire Harris County criminal history pops up. It shows every case the person was ever charged with, as well as the outcome of those cases. That information is something that is readily available via a standard NCIC/TCIC criminal history check, but the CCHD gives much more detailed information.
Each listing of a criminal case provides links to a tremendous amount of additional information. In most cases, each case is linked to the offense report. It may also link to all the persons involved. It can provide information on where the crime happened and past known addresses of a suspect. In many cases, it even has digital downloads of audio and video recordings. It is a valuable asset for prosecutors and police agencies. Here's why.
Let's say that the Houston Police Department is working on a case and they are looking for a suspect. They enter his name into the CCHD and it shows that he's had several cases filed on him by the Harris County Sheriff's Office, the Constables, or Pasadena. The CCHD provides an easy click to read the offense reports from those other agencies.
It allows the multiple police agencies within Harris County to quickly access each other's relevant information, without having to go through the (sometimes painfully slow) process of reaching out to each other and asking for that same information to be shared. It puts local criminal history at an officer's fingertips.
Defense attorneys even have (a very limited) access to it for their clients. When I have signed on as attorney of record to a case, I can use the CCHD to look up my client's criminal history and have access to all of the old offense reports related to it. It is an amazing website that makes my job so much easier. I can see the related offense reports, get interviews, and see evidence on cases where my client was charged. It saves the prosecutors an immeasurable amount of time because they don't have to make copies of everything and provide it to me.
But the irony is that now I have access to something that the freaking City of Houston Police Department does not. HPD. The biggest law enforcement agency in the county.
It's hard to decide where to begin with this, but I'll give it a shot.
When Kim Ogg
Ogg was more than happy to take on the ire of the police agencies when she decided to stop taking felony charges on residue or "trace cases" or small amounts of marijuana. Those criticisms were to be expected for a "progressive" District Attorney.
But recent public complaints from HPD to the media have apparently pushed Ogg over the edge. Some members of HPD have been complaining of prosecutors pleading out cases for too little punishment. Ogg's way of dealing with the criticism was to simply ban her prosecutors from talking to the police about what was happening.
This memo in and of itself is pretty telling about the deteriorating relationship between the Ogg Administration and surrounding police agencies. The very idea that police officers who worked on cases aren't allowed to speak to the prosecutors who handled those cases is absurd.
I'm not saying that a police officer's opinion of a case should be the controlling factor on how that case is handled -- prosecutors are trained to spot issues and make judgment calls on cases that a police officer may not see -- but that doesn't mean officers should get the silent treatment on the cases they work on. Imagine a scenario like this:
OFFICER: Hey, are you the prosecutor that handled that Agg Assault on a Public Servant case where the suspect shot at me?
ADA: I'm sorry, sir. I can neither confirm nor deny that.
OFFICER: He got probation. What the hell happened?
ADA: Sir, you may speak to my supervisor if you are displeased.
OFFICER: Aren't you the prosecutor who handled it?
ADA: I can neither confirm nor deny that. Would you like my supervisor's name and number?
But even that pales in comparison to the idea of shutting the county's largest police force out of a shared database. In essence, Ogg has responded to the criticisms by withdrawing access to an investigative tool. That could be construed as a declaration of war.
And that probably wasn't the best decision she could have made. This war is not one that Ogg can win.
Suppose HPD decides to retaliate by blocking access to their databases to all HCDA personnel? Prosecutors who want an offense report will have to request a printed version that is copied and turned over to them. What would happen if every name an HCDA investigator wanted to look up was no longer available at the push of a button?
It would bring the D.A.'s Office to a standstill. What would the D.A.'s Office do then? Stop filing all HPD cases? Good luck with that. What Ogg is withholding from HPD will inconvenience them. If they retaliate, they could devastate a D.A.'s Office that is already reeling from the side effects of Hurricane Harvey.
I'm sure there is more to the story than is currently in the media. Ogg giving a comment might help enlighten us. The fact that she isn't in front of a camera, sharing her side of things is telling. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. If we know nothing else about Kim Ogg, we know that she doesn't back down from challenges very often.
No matter how devastating the repercussions.