Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

The Sheriff and the deputies

I had mentioned before that there was some discontent from the Sheriff’s deputies bubbling up, mostly in the form of emails sent to Carl Whitmarsh’s listserv. Earlier today, the following was sent out:

SHERIFF GARCIA, KEEP YOUR PROMISES

A Labor Resolution

Whereas, Houston Police Officer Adrian Garcia enjoyed a Peace Officers Bill of Rights when he worked the streets as an officer; and

Whereas, Candidate Adrian Garcia promised the Harris County Deputies Organization, Local 154, IUPA, a Harris County AFL-CIO affiliate, that if elected he would support and sign a Peace Officers Bill of Rights within the first 90 days of taking office; and

Whereas, Candidate Adrian Garcia also promised the Harris County Deputies Organization that if elected the union would be a part of the transition process; and

Whereas, Candidate Adrian Garcia also promised the Harris County Deputies Organization that if elected he would review all cases pending before the Civil Service Commission to see if any could be resolved prior to a formal civil service hearing; and

Whereas, Candidate Adrian Garcia also promised the Harris County Deputies Organization that if elected he would stand with us in Austin to get favorable bills including a Collective Bargaining Bill and a permanent Peace Officers Bill of Rights; and

Whereas, Candidate Adrian Garcia also promised the Harris County Deputies Organization that if elected he would talk to members of the civil service commission to see if he could get quicker hearings for unresolved cases; and

Whereas, Candidate Adrian Garcia also promised the Harris County Deputies Organization that if elected he would work with us toward adopting a better transfer policy; and

Whereas, once elected SHERIFF ADRIAN GARCIA HAS NOT KEPT ANY OF THESE PROMISES; and

Whereas, once elected Sheriff Adrian Garcia also has proposed a transfer policy that is based on a 25% “oral review” provision that is totally unacceptable; and

Whereas, current state law (Texas Government Code § 614.021 – 614.023) requires internal investigators to give deputies copies of sworn complaints within a reasonable time after the complaint is filed, and Sheriff Adrian Garcia’s internal investigators have not abided by the law;

NOW BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED, that the Harris County AFL-CIO joins with the Harris County Deputies’ Organization to tell Sheriff Garcia that we expect him to keep his promise and to support and sign the un-amended, unadulterated Peace Officers Bill of Rights without further delay; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Harris County AFL-CIO joins with the Deputies’ Organization, tell Sheriff Garcia that we expect him to keep his promises to the union.

This resolution was adopted by the Harris County AFL-CIO on this the 26th day of August, 2009.

I forwarded the email to Alan Bernstein, who is Sheriff Garcia’s public affairs director, asking if Garcia had a response, and a little while later received the following:

Statement of Sheriff Adrian Garcia

August 27, 2009

For most of my 30-year career in public service, and long before holding elective office, I was a Houston police officer union member. The experience informs my understanding of employees’ needs and is the basis for many of the policy changes I am making in the Sheriff’s Office. And while I recognize the primary responsibility employee groups have to aggressively advocate on behalf of their members, as Sheriff I must balance those interests with my commitment to the people of Harris County to restore accountability to the HCSO and regain and protect the public trust.

So when I took office in January, I pledged to improve the operations, management, and transparency of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, and to lead an organization that is accountable both to the public we serve as well as to our employees. Putting into place organizational policies that are consistent, transparent and fair to all employees is vital to achieving that accountability. Thus, it has been a top priority for my administration. My new policies include:

A Fleet Accident Review Board, which includes an employee group representative, assures the fair treatment of deputies involved in fleet accidents and sets a standardized system of review and even-handed penalties, if any. I have removed the automatic probation and its ban on extra jobs because of fleet accidents.

An Administrative Disciplinary Committee, consisting of four majors, which reviews serious allegations against HCSO employees.

Resolution of Complaints – I have redirected existing HCSO resources toward the investigation and resolution of allegations of employee misconduct with a goal of resolving complaints within 180 days.

    An Appeals Process – Two members of my executive team – a major and a civilian – consider appeals of disciplinary actions. The inclusion of a civilian executive adds balance and perspective to the process.

I have also taken steps to create a Corrective Action Manual, which will clearly define appropriate, consistent disciplinary actions for policy violations by all employees, as well as a Peer Review Group, in which employee group representatives will review minor employee infractions. Over the last several months, I have met with supervisors – sworn and civilian – at all levels of this organization to have constructive dialogue, as well as to set my expectations for the treatment of front line employees.

Finally, nearly four months ago I submitted to employee group leaders an Employee Bill of Rights, which will apply to all HCSO employees, sworn and civilian. It clearly enumerates employee rights, as well as investigators’ powers, duties and authority when conducting internal investigations of alleged employee misconduct. It was drafted with considerable input from employee groups; they have accepted 98 percent of it. Our discussions, as fresh as this month, continue so we can reach agreement on the remainder.

I am grateful to the men and women of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office for their continued dedication and hard work, and I remain fully committed to treating all employees with fairness and consistency.

It doesn’t sound nearly as bad as what’s happening in the District Attorney’s office, but it certainly bears watching.

Related Posts:

One Comment

  1. Robert Goerlitz, Secretary Treasurer says:

    Ok, let’s address some of the things stated.

    The fleet accident review was an easy fix and it has greatly improved the speed of the process. Great job.

    An Administrative Disciplinary Committee – While it is better to have 4 people to judge you than 1 the process has a flaw. There are now well over 30 cases backlogged waiting to be heard. The committee meets once a week, sometimes, and hears just a few cases each time. With patrol only allowed to sometimes present only 3 or 4 cases, if any, at one of these meetings you can see how this is causing a log jam with people sitting around waiting for their cases to be heard.

    Resolution of Complaints – Yes, the process is faster but it has been done with taking boots off the ground to fill those increases in citizen complaints. Less patrolmen and the largest investigative unit in the department. The cases have been caught up for some time but the manpower hasn’t been moved back to the street where they are desperately needed.

    Appeals process – There is a reason why civil service is in place. If the employee’s are required to follow civil service rules then so should the administration.

    The bill of rights – Yes, there was a meeting this month but out of the 2 hour meeting, less than 10 minutes of that was spent on this issue with no positive movement.

    It is great the Sheriff has 30 years of public service. I have 23 with the majority of it spent on the street, on patrol, meeting the public and dealing with these issues first hand. I am the grunt in the field and happen to have some perspective on these things from the folks doing “God’s work” as a preacher recently put it. I listen to the troops and I am one of the troops. I have cried with my fellow Deputies, helped my fellow Deputies and played taps at their funerals over those years.

    Peace officers are a little different type of folk than most. It is burned into our brains if you tell someone you are going to do something you better darn sure do it or else be thought badly of and never be trusted again. When a fellow peace officer comes forward and tells you he is going to do something then you maintain that same type of mentality with the same expectation.

    As far as transparency and accountability, I won’t get into the endless problems we have had with open records request and incorrect statements given.

    I had higher expectations than this.