Sunday, September 21, 2008

Court Agenda Items of Interest

I found two items in the Harris County Commissioner Court agenda for this coming Tuesday, Sept. 23. Remember all the controversy the Chronicle started with the contract deputy program? Well an item to be discussed Tuesday;

"The court could authorize a transfer of all patrol contracts to the constables and require the
Sheriff's Department to provide general patrol service throughout the unincorporated

Yep! The idea is strip all of the contracts from the sheriff's department and give them all to the constable departments. Not a bad idea in my book. However, another idea that is a little troubling.

"It is recommended that constables not be allowed to establish SWAT capability. All
county law enforcement should use the HPD SWAT Team as a primary resource, with the
Sheriff’s Department to be used as a secondary backup if necessary.
Constables should be prohibited from acquiring high powered automatic weapons even if
they are furnished by a provider at no initial cost to the county."

So, the commissioners court had decided that HPD alone should provide SWAT services for the whole county (which they do now anyway). However the city of Houston gets priority. So, if they are unavailable and there is an armed hostage crises, Harris County is out of luck. Plus, why can't Constables, who are police officers by the way, be only allowed pop guns by the logic of the commissioners court? I'm assuming that they are including semi-automatic rifles in this definition here. Three years ago, Pct.4 deputies found themselves in a shoot out with a bank robber with an AK-47 rifle. The deputies had AR-15 rifles to defend themselves with. I guess (God forbid) there is a Columbine type school massacre going the Constables will have to wait for HPD SWAT to suit up and make it there while people are dying. I guess they think Constables can call 'time out' until HPD SWAT makes it out there.


jigmeister said...

As a retired prosecutor and recalling all the problems with constables over the years, I would like to see criminal jurisdiction in the hands of officers adequately trained, ie HPD and the Sheriff. Constables should go back to serving papers. Ideally there should be a metro police department instead of some 40 jurisdictions. SWAT functions requires specialization, lots and lots of training and big bucks. If there is good communication, leave it to the pros.

Tenderfoot said...

Jig, there are good officers, and bad ones in every department. I can name some current prosecutors who need to re-read the penal code. Especially the ones who work intake. We'd love to speak to adequately trained prosecutors and not defense attorneys in training.

jigmeister said...


After the Rosenthal debacle, I am afraid you are going to have young inexperienced prosecutors for sometime. The old guys are packing it in. You don't want to get me talking about how much trouble the DA's office is in.

Obviously there are good cops in every department and training alone doesn't make a good cop, but the system of overlapping jurisdictions and functions, limited budgets and good ole boy hiring systems of most constables lead to trouble. Not sure that part is fixable as long as the job is political. No one wants to give up power.

But why do constables need SWAT teams??

Tenderfoot said...

I'm not saying constables need SWAT teams, I'm saying preventing constables from carrying high powered weapons (specifically rifles) is foolish. If kids are at school when a nutball comes in shooting. Would you rather a constable who happens to have a rifle and training and experience and is nearby come to the aid of the kids? Or should the constable, as you put it, just sit back and 'leave it to the pros?'

Jason said...

Hey guys,

I just learned that was in response to a request from one of the constable departments to carry machine guns basically.