Monday, September 28, 2009

Police Shootings Up in Harris County

The Houston Chronicle is back on its rant about police shootings. Today we have this article about how shootings by law enforcement in Harris County have risen this year. According to the article, as of September 24, there have been 44 police shootings in Harris County. This has already surpassed the total number of police shootings for the last two years. Read the explanations offered by our community.

First, HPOU President Gary Blankenship cited the end of the city's paid overtime program. He also cites rising unemployment due to the state of the economy as of late. I can understand that. However, maybe I'm being naive but not everyone who is out of a job is out committing a crime. We're hearing that excuse from people however it's from the people who were out screwing up when the economy was good.

Next we have our very own media appointed community activist (I still have yet to see what community he has made a difference in) Quanell X. Of course he won't change. He wants to see more officers charged regardless of the facts. He still makes his living jumping in front of a camera although he is more careful since the Joe Horn incident.

Next was a shock. Spokeswoman for the District Attorney's Office Donna Hawkins blames permissive gun laws!!!! What???? No disrespect to Ms. Hawkins, but what planet is she living on? Or was she reading a bad script? She was quoted as "if more people have the access and it becomes easier to carry them, there tends to be more shooting and more situations involving police officers." I really hate to repeat myself. Remember when Texas first enacted the concealed handgun laws? Everyone was screaming that Texas would be the wild west and guess what? It didn't happen! When the legislature changed the gun laws to essentially make carrying a handgun in one's car legal that changed nothing. I wonder if anyone at the DA's office realize that criminals will always carry weapons illegally. Criminals break the law, that's what they do. The law abiding citizen, even armed, will not present a threat to a police officer. Does the DA's office realize it is already illegal for felons, gang members, illegal immigrants to have guns? Apparently not because I know of an incident in which a stolen car with six illegal immigrants was stopped. A ski mask, a pistol, and a shotgun were found and the DA's office only charged one person with a weapon charge and let the rest go! Maybe if the DA's office would quit declining good cases for ridiculous reasons that could help the police a little bit.

Next comes a Sam Houston State University researcher who comments about the numbers. Out of respect for my alma mater all I'm going to say is do a few ride-a-longs and see what the streets are like instead of looking at numbers and coming up with theories.

Next we hear from JoAnne Musick, President of the Harris County Criminal Defense Lawyers Association. She is a former public integrity prosecutor (and a very good attorney). She said she wondered if the shootings are a "lingering effect from police confrontations with criminals mixed with the wave of Hurricane Katrina refugees.." The Katrina people aren't as numerous as they were in 2006, but some of them are still here and occasionally they still make the news as getting in trouble with the law, or involved in crimes. Ms. Musick has a better understanding of officer-involved shooting than the District Attorney's office apparently. She also cited the stress of limited back up and single man patrols. I would agree that limited back up can be stressful. However single man patrols are the norm around here. Remember this incident where the officer was ambushed? With people like these running around naturally police are going to be more cautious. She quotes the old proverb perception is reality. When an officer perceives a threat he/she will react accordingly and that reaction will have to be documented and reviewed. One thing people need to understand the best way not to elicit a reaction from a police officer is not to do anything threatening, or that maybe perceived as so. However many people feel they can challenge the police without any consequence (and sometimes they are right thanks to the District Attorney's office refusal to prosecute many cases of officers being assaulted).

The article concludes with the HPOU President citing that many people shot are under the influence of some substance and/or mentally ill. Sadly this is true to an extent. People under the influence are emboldened to act out against their families and the police. People with mental issues can act out presenting a danger to themselves and others and the police have to deal with them. However, contrary to the wishes of some in the mental health community and the media police are not going to lay down and get injured or killed because the intent is not there.