"Having worn the uniform of the Houston Police Department for 24 years, I am thoroughly embarrassed by what I see on the tape," said Councilman C.O. Bradford.Seven officers were fired and four of them indicted, but as is often the case, firings in the incident so far haven't all stuck. In the 70 or so cities opted-in to the Texas civil service code, arbitrators routinely reinstate officers in such cases, making it terribly hard even for well-intentioned administrators to bust apart that Blue Wall of Silence. (Indeed, once they're reinstated, under the civil service code their past misconduct in most cases can't even be used to justify passing them over for a promotion.) And, unlike in the rest of the state, evidence of most police misconduct is secret in civil service cities unless serious discipline is imposed, making it harder for reporters to fill in the gap with external investigations. Reporters in Dallas, by contrast, which never opted into the civil service code, have much greater access to records about the police disciplinary process under the Public Information Act (and it shows in their day to day reporting). Same goes for all Texas Sheriffs and most Texas police departments.
"When you see about a dozen officers and several participating in it and not a single officer reported such a serious violation of the law - I am concerned."
Just bringing civil service cities back under the Public Information Act (they were carved out in 1989, decades after voters in civil service cities "opted in" to the code), would be the most important reform that could be enacted regarding police misconduct in this state, much more so than any civilian review board, police monitor, or what have you. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and as evidenced by this example, concealing information in such cases only exacerbates the situation.
UPDATE: Another surveillance video has surfaced depicting alleged police brutality, this one showing "apparent excessive force by a Houston police officer on a handcuffed suspect."
Related Grits posts:
- Lyings, stealing, other misconduct don't factor into promotions under state civil service code
- Double dipping not cause for firings, says civil service examiner
- How to make $98K distributing pagers
- Arbitrator reinstated cop so lacking in credibility DA won't use his testimony
- What does it take to get a bad cop fired in civil service cities
- Austin chief can't bypass officer for promotion who visited brothel on vacation