Monday, May 27, 2013

Wiretapping bill dead mainly because Dallas cop was a jerk

Image via Emergent Chaos
The bill Grits put the most effort into killing this session was SB 188 by Huffman (and its companion, HB 530 by Fletcher) expanding authority of local PDs in big cities to engage in wiretapping. It was a bad bill but no one opposed it in the Senate. And Grits probably wouldn't have stuck my nose into the fray if it weren't for the untoward behavior of one of the bill's most prominent backers.

The two main proponents of the wiretap expansion bill - Det. Jimmy Taylor from the Houston PD and Frederick Frazier from the Dallas Police Association - were also the individuals most prominently opposing HB 1608 by Bryan Hughes requiring warrants to obtain cell-phone location data. Det. Frazier had been particularly hostile and abusive toward Rep. Hughes' poor, unsuspecting staffer assigned to the bill, who'd never before been on the business end of such vitriolic police tirades. ("Welcome to my world," I told her.) One day I came into the office and she was on the phone with Frazier holding the receiver a foot away from her ear with an aggrieved look on her face as he screamed into the line. I could hear him halfway across the room.

Grits is not a fan of such bullying behavior, particularly when it's aimed at a well-intentioned twentysomething staffer from my hometown who's working her butt off for my bill! So in retaliation, I authored an op ed against his wiretap expansion bill in the Houston Chronicle and shared it with the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee staff, submitted written testimony against the bill at the public hearing on the House side, and visited with committee members' offices behind the scenes to scuttle Frazier's pet legislation. To be sure, members of that committee weren't hard to convince and perhaps the bill would have perished anyway, but there was no other public opposition. By the time I made the rounds after the hearing I could count at least six (out of nine) votes against it. Despite a 30-1 vote in the Senate (and btw, kudos to Craig Estes for opposing it), the bill never made it out of committee on the House side.

My purpose was not just to kill a bad bill, which is always a plus, but also to send a message to Mr. Frazier and his ilk: Next time be more polite, pick on somebody your own size, and if you decide to launch an all-out war against reform bills you dislike, keep in mind that strategy may come back to bite you on your own legislation. It did on SB 188.

15 comments:

doran said...

I assume that henceforward your driving visits to Houston and Dallas will be discrete, made incognito, and in rented vehicles.....

Anonymous said...

Whatcha wanna bet that if this guy had the authority to wiretap he'd use that authority to bully others he disagrees with? Wonder how else he is using his power to bully people? Might be worth looking into.

Robert Langham said...

Thanks for your good works.

Anonymous said...

I cannot love this story enough. Thank you, Grits. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

According to a Google search, Det. Frederick Frazier is chairman of the Assist the Officer Foundation that helps officers and their families when an officer is killed, or suffers a catastrophic injury or illness. Sounds like a real jerk, Grits! Thanks for putting him in his place!

Anonymous said...

Hehehehehe...good going Grits. Wish there were more like you!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Scott. You never get the praise you deserve...

Anonymous said...

Great job Scott. The Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association has a strike force that shows up for lawyers who are found in contempt in Court, usually by a bully Judge. Please consider discussing the idea with TCDLA folks of having TCDLA create a committee that organizes a strike force of lawyers in the legislature. I realize they have a lobbyist along with a small committee already. However, there have been key bills that should have passed but didn't that could have used this kind of support in an organized and courteous but passionate manner. Obviously not the manner of this bully thug cop.

A Harris County Lawyer said...

Nicely done, Sir.

Patricia Kiker said...

Thanks Grits. I give you full creditQ

Anonymous said...

Actually that last comment was from Rev. Charles. Somehow it's on Patricia's google account.

Atticus said...

As a former member of TCDLA, I have to wonder if they were asleep at the wheel on this bill or chose not to oppose it?

Anonymous said...

The law enforcement and prosecutor lobbies have traditionally gotten their way with the legislature. Now they are acting like 2 year old who have been told "no" for the first time.

Anonymous said...

“It’s going to kill people,” said Frederick Frazier, political action committee chairman and first vice president of the Dallas Police Association.

http://trailblazersblog.dallasnews.com/2013/05/dallas-police-association-furious-over-bill-restricting-cell-phone-tracking.html/

Anonymous said...

Hey Scott,

Great job fighting the police lobby. Some of the police and prosecutor lobby are the biggest jerks. I had a run in with TMPA who must have throught they were the cat's meow. These jerks opposed one of my models without any reason or attempting dialog. One of their staff was bragging arrogantly about killing the bill outside the committee room. When I engaged in dialog with these jerks, they told me they never heard of my organization of 1.6 million members or me, despite the fact I was quoted that month in every major newspaper in Texas and the New York Times.

I was glad to teach them a lesson too as I found one of their only bills that made it out of committee. I was able to get an ammendment attached to the bill that reflected what my original model bill attempted. Yep it passed and was signed off by the Gov.

Not all police associations are jerks, but TMPA is. Police need to drop their membership from these guys. They seem to make more enemies and lack some basic understanding of politics. CLEAT worked well with us and I pointed this fact out to their Exec Director who talked trash about their diplomacy.

Jerks will have trouble in the future with more progressive groups coming to power.