Thursday, December 06, 2012

DOJ investigating excessive force at Houston PD

The US Justice Department is investigating a half-dozen excessive force cases at the Houston Police Department, AP reported, including one in which "a mentally ill one-armed, one-legged man in a wheelchair" was shot after threatening officers "with what turned out to be a ballpoint pen."

Another "fatal shooting federal officials are investigating is the July death of 54-year-old Rufino Lara during an assault investigation. Authorities said Lara failed to follow officers' commands in English and Spanish to stop and show his hands and that he tried to pull a concealed object from his waistband that turned out to be a can of beer. Two witnesses have said Lara had his hands in the air when he was shot."

In yet another episode under investigation, reported KTRK-TV, "Last January, Sebastian Pevot says he was beaten by police officers during a traffic stop. His wife, Annika Lewis, allegedly had her phone damaged while trying to record it. That incident is now among six Houston police cases being investigated by the Justice Department."

Houston PD is a big department and the actions of a few don't reflect on everyone who works there. But Houston has seen enough questionable episodes that it's well worth having an extra set of eyes from the Justice Department vet their training, procedures, and disciplinary practices to ensure they're up to snuff.


Richard Boland said...

It does, in fact, reflect very badly on everyone who works there. You can't tell me that out of that many officers, nobody knew that these guys were bad apples. The blue wall of silence is in full effect.

Anonymous said...

Although there are fabulous peace officers who would never consider using excessive force against another human begin, the law enforcement ‘excessive abuse’ problem is rampant throughout this country.
What those abusive officers of Houston PD have forgotten is that they are members of a ‘service organization’. Period. Their goal is to enforce laws and to protect the citizens of the community who hired them. They are only ‘employees’ of the citizens!
I think we were more capable when I was a police officer. We cared more about the citizens than many officers do today. We were more able to think our way through and out of tough situations. We had a deeper respect for the written law, and we had supervisors who made sure we did not ‘violate the law to enforce the law’. We also understood that we were only ‘employees’ of the citizens of the community, and we acted accordingly. Most importantly, we pulled our guns and shot as a last resort, not as a first consideration. (we damned sure didn’t shoot and kill little dogs that were tied up, and who posed no danger what so ever to anyone!)
Were their members of my department who used ‘excessive force’? You bet! But they actions weren’t covered up. Nor were they congratulated by the chief and district attorney’s office like now. They were exposed and fired. Many were filed on, and went to prison.
I wish we could help police officers unify to do the ‘right’ thing instead of them unifying to figure out how to not take responsibility for the crimes they commit against citizens. Yes, excessive force is against the law!
It’s up to the citizens of the community to hold individual police officers (their supervisors, trainers, and police training curriculum) accountable because chiefs, district attorneys, police unions, and city councils are in each others pockets, and routinely band together to cover their collective backsides!

Former Dallas Police Officer
Former TCLEOSE instructor

Anonymous said...

I suspect this investigation could lead to a huge change. A closely held rumor circulating Houston City Hall is that when the DOJ moves to take over command of HPD the city council will try to disband the entire department and have Harris County Sheriff's Department take over policing of the city.

Houston's mayor and city council members have been searching for a way to relieve the city's obligation of the millions of dollars in HPD pension payments each year, which are bankrupting the city, and this may provide them with the necessary reasoning to move forward.

Anonymous said...

Still waiting for the local fishwrapper to publish a pic of the hero who executed the wheelchair fear for his life my sagging rump.

Anonymous said...

Stop! It's a good idea to comment as an Anon. regarding this Post and any regarding Law Enforcement.

The Bullies in blue will have plenty of paid time off to hang out with their homies at the pubs off Washington Ave. Guess what they'll be doing? Trolling blogs to harrass anyone talking about them.

Plus the Association / Union has a dedicated ass-hole patrol that does this with stolen laptops from parkinglots, in bars & couches. Just wait, NTC on roids & bad breath BGB will be here shortly to highjack the comment section.

Don't reply to them and they'll look silly all by themselves. Several of their supervisiors and police integrity sections are aware of the online bullying and harrassment of citizens. The Anon. they harras next could be their boss.

Anonymous said...

Houston PD is a big department and the actions of a few don't reflect on everyone who works there.

Grits, I know you ment well as to not to lump everyone into the same barrel but sadly, it does reflect on everyone who works there (and everywhere) and badly and for decades afterwards. I grew up there and know this for a fact. *The very moment that the former LEOs, current / active LEOs, Associations / Unions, police cheifs, sheriffs', D.As. & mayors of Texas publicaly convine to collectively denounce the criminal actions and support the prosecution and lifetime bannishment of uniformed criminals and inact a reward system for good cops, the crimes against citizens will deminish. Making Grand Juries activities open to the public is a must.

IMHO, the seeds of distrust for law enforcement as a hole are planted in the memory banks of all that witness the bad deeds of a minority segment of the uniformed public servant(s) community. This is compounded when the victims' learn that the system is rigged from the grand juries on down, allowing them free passes as it affects everyone.

Another sad fact (was touched on by former DPD officer) is that they are trained to contact their Union Rep. (Flack) and get stories straight and write reports in a team effort. When the others' are aware of a collegues criminal conduct (watered down version = police misconduct) and conspire to assist in filing falsified reports or offer up false testimony defending the criminal(s) you get a system designed to cover up crimes. Add this to the hundreds of thousands of war veterns & former prison guards being in line to wear a badge and you'll see an increase in crimes against citizens and excusses for their actions being grounds for even more grand juries to write it off as PTSDs and refuse to indict.

The LEDG and / or the DOJ could call for the enhancment of the penalities for LEO related crimes and apply lifetime employment bans on the bad apples but that would take someone with balls and not in the unions / associations back pocketts. Hmmm? anyone, anyone have any idea who this person might be?

*The DOJ isn't going to take over anything, they'll make a showing, slap a wrist or two for shooting the handicapped and poof they'll be gone.

Anonymous said...

Given the geographic size of the city and number of officers per population, it is easy to forget that most officers only see a limited few at roll call and when they turn in their gear at the end of a shift. To hear some of you, police are some sort of Borg Collective that know what each other are doing at all times and support any misconduct. This is a lie on a grand scale. Given the call for service load most nights, they do not have time to keep up with each other outside of the rumor mill.

Please do not forget that in almost every case, the one catching the bad cop is one of their own. If given the choice to set punishment, most officers would be far harsher on their own than juries have been too.

The DOJ will look into a handful of cases that are already investigated by the city and county. They will then either sign off on how things turned out or try to coerce the city into an agreement as it has with most other major cities that would force additional training and more rules. Such agreements are expensive but the net result is rarely to improve a police department.

In terms of the city disbanding its police department so Harris County can take over, the first problem would be that HCSO is not staffed enough to handle the areas outside the city. To take care of the additional manpower needed for the city, it would have to more than double or triple in size overnight. That is a recipe for disaster even if it were legally possible, it isn't, or that the city had the ability to shove off costs to the county as it saw fit, it doesn't.

The unfunded city pension liability for the entire workforce is under 9% of one portion of its budget too, hardly bankrupting the city like various misspent funds have caused fiscal concerns but don't let the facts get in the way of your rants. If anything, the city police pension cuts eight years ago have set the stage for even more problems due to getting last choice candidates instead of the dream of the crop as it were.

Anonymous said...

That does not compute. Rant, Rant, Rant, (man, this sounds like a Union Rep. / Lawyer or Cop living in la la land on in a parkinglot.

"Given the geographic size of the city and number of officers per population, it is easy to forget that most officers only see a limited few at roll call and when they turn in their gear at the end of a shift."

"Please do not forget that in almost every case, the one catching the bad cop is one of their own." Pubs, Pool Halls, Garages & any where there's food - just a few places that people get their shit (reports' in sync) in one basket.

*If you could just hear yourself comment and or understand that you can only fool the fools and of course yourself.