The Harris County Sheriff's Office has named a department employee to head the newly created post of inspector general to investigate abuses at the county jail.
The appointment comes as federal authorities review the downtown lockups and a local congressional leader plans an inquiry into county judicial matters, including jail conditions, later this week.
Traditionally, jail supervisors investigated complaints against staff, officials said. However, the sheriff's new investigative arm will relieve supervisors of the time-consuming investigations and allow them to focus on supervisory duties.
Investigators with the oversight office, which was created about six weeks ago, will regularly tour county jails to ensure that proper operations and procedures are followed.
The sheriff's internal affairs unit as well the homicide division will continue to investigate in-custody deaths, officials said.
Sheriff's officials said the new investigative office had been planned for months and is unrelated to recent public criticism of Sheriff Tommy Thomas and federal inquiries at the jail.
In related news:
[Rep. Sheila] Jackson Lee, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, is scheduled to host an informal hearing at City Hall from 10 a.m. to noon Friday to examine county judicial issues, including jail conditions.