All charges against Sgt. Ken Wenzel, the second former HPD officer indicted on five counts of official oppression stemming from the botched K-Mart raid last august, have been dropped in the wake of former Captain Mark Aguirre's acquittal.
Prosecutor Tommy La Fon said a jury's acquittal Monday of the raid's commander, Capt. Mark Aguirre, after two weeks of trial was a key reason why he asked state District Judge Carol G. Davies to dismiss the five misdemeanor counts of official oppression against Wenzel.
La Fon said he also consulted with District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal about the matter.
"The strongest evidence we had was against Capt. Aguirre," La Fon said. "The jury heard that and concluded that no criminal wrongdoing occurred, and acquitted him."
A majority of council members said a series of problems beyond the crime lab at HPD has damaged their confidence in Bradford, including last summer's mass arrests at a westside Kmart and his trial on aggravated perjury charges, for which he was acquitted.
"He should take the high road and resign," said Councilman Gabriel Vasquez, who has consistently raised questions about mismanagement in the Police Department. "He deserves an opportunity to explain himself to council and the public, but short of that, he should (go)."
Eight of Vasquez's 13 fellow council members told the Chronicle they agreed.
The Houston Police Officers Union, which has long expressed its dissatisfaction with the chief, also called for his resignation.
"It's time for him to step down," said union chief Hans Marticiuc.
One candidate -- City Councilman Michael Berry -- said Thursday that Bradford should be asked to resign as a way to rebuild confidence in the Police Department.
Another -- former Councilman Orlando Sanchez -- has said previously that one of his first acts as mayor would be to replace Bradford.
The two other candidates -- businessman Bill White and state rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston -- are less pointed about Bradford's future.
Berry said the Police Department suffers a "crisis of confidence among its police officers" because of the crime lab and other issues.
"I would bring him in and ask for his resignation," Berry said. "He's given too many good years to fire him. I would tell him that a resignation would help restore confidence in the police department."
Sanchez said he would not speculate about how term-limited Mayor Lee Brown should handle Bradford. But Sanchez noted that he has already pledged to replace Bradford if elected.
"I happen to like Chief Bradford personally," Sanchez said. "But as I have said, the Police Department needs new leadership."
White said Bradford should be given the opportunity to explain his side of the story.
"In my administration, the chief would be held accountable for any serious management failures," White said. "I'd give anyone an opportunity, then I would assess the evidence and make a prompt decision on management."
A spokesman for Turner said he would not comment about campaign issues until he announces his candidacy July 9.
On the other hand, as noted in the Houston Area Survey (see Figure Three here), traffic is the big concern this year. By harping on Chief Bradford, Berry and Sanchez run the risk of spending too little time addressing what voters want to hear. There's a limit to how often they can go to this well. Likewise, White and Turner can turn this around on them - "OK, we get it, they don't like Chief Bradford. What do they plan on doing about traffic once they're done firing him?"
Anyway, to get back to the original topic, this should be the last we hear of the K-Mart Kiddie Roundup until one of the civil cases comes to court. Let's hope the city does a better job with that than they did in proving Aguirre's criminal intent.Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 20, 2003 to K-Mart Kiddie Roundup | TrackBack