Investigating Corruption in HPD

Is the Houston Police Department Corrupt?

Lots of stories have focused on the Houston police department and the misconduct of its officers. Corruption appears to be the norm. Whether they are more corrupt than other police departments doesn’t really matter. The fact that this situation exists is a matter that needs attention.

The Bad

Recently prosecutors dismissed more than 6,000 speeding tickets written by Houston police officers who allegedly falsified citations so that they could earn overtime testifying in court. Nothing new here, in 2012 four officers had done the same thing and earned almost $1 million in overtime pay.

In April two lieutenants were relieved of duty for allegedly sexual harassment of female officers.

One detective was cited as not performing the basic duties of his work while investigating homicide cases, such as losing vital evidence, not interviewing witnesses, not showing up at crime scenes, and not following up on tips. This isn’t to speak for all the people who have been robbed, and have yet to be interviewed by a detective.

They Should Hire Private Investigators

If there’s a deficiency in the ability of the Houston Police Department to perform detective work, they could always hire some of the best Houston private investigators like Gradoni & Associates and/or Wilson Investigations. They’ve worked with law enforcement as well, and I’m sure they wouldn’t mind being on the payroll.

Lawsuits

A lawsuit is in the works now concerning the action of an officer in 2012 when he shot an unarmed man while answering a call about a break-in.

There are other examples reported in both local and national news.

Consequences

Here is the crux of the matter. Police seem to be cleared of these reports of misconduct and bad judgment in an overwhelming majority of cases.

According to the Texas Observer, police beatings of unarmed persons happens almost daily. They conducted an investigation and found 588 cases of “use of force” in six months, with Internal Affairs dismissing all but four. Officers reported fellow officers for excessive force 118 times during this period, but only 11 reports resulted in punitive action. In fact, Internal Affairs upheld only 2 percent of the reports of police beatings and more than one-third of those were video tapes. Of the 706 complaints of excessive abuse, only 15 officers were disciplined. For the 505 complaints regarding police shootings of citizens, none were discipline, even in the cases where the citizen was unarmed.

Citizens expected one case to be different. A mentally ill man in a wheelchair with only one arm and one leg wielding a ballpoint pen tried to attack officers with the pen and was fatally shot. Yet the officer was cleared and is still with the force.

Promises of reform have been made by the department but so far nothing’s changed.

Factors

One factor that keeps this trend alive is the famous “Code of Silence” that police officers so often adhere to, refusing to report or testify against their fellow officers.

Another is fear of retaliation if citizens report police abuse. This has been reported by the Houston Times in numerous articles.

Arbitration is another factor. Any suspension of three days or more is eligible for arbitration by an outside party. Therefore, in the small minority of cases prosecuted, arbitration is offered. In two-thirds of these cases, the arbitrators reduce or even overturn the officer’s punishment. This allows abusive officers to return to duty.

The final factor is that with all of the crime data tracked by the government, there is no central database on the use of deadly force by law enforcement. This is a major oversight since even repeat offenders aren’t tracked.

The Other Side

Yes, there are other stories about the good work of Houston police officers.

Two officers who are part of the homeless outreach program saw an elderly homeless man and bought him new clothes and shoes. When they noticed that his feet were in bad condition, they also gave him a pedicure.

Sheldon Theragood works with the homeless outreach program and focuses on at-risk youth in Houston. He organized an event to feed the homeless for Thanksgiving.

The department contributes to the city’s clean-up project.

Conclusion

Is the Houston Police Department overall corrupt? That is a question you will have to decide for yourself. If you’re a citizen in Houston, get involved. See if there’s a way you can make a difference. After all, that’s the only way things ever really change.