I’m not sure why Chron.com still has the same story from yesterday about the settlement of the Ibarra lawsuit against the Harris County Sheriff’s office when there’s a different and fuller story, with quotes from jurors, in the print edition. All but one of the jurors that spoke expressed some level of outrage at the lack of any investigation by the Sheriff and DA’s office into the Ibarra’s complaint. Hopefully, that article will make it to the website eventually, but till then, we have Lisa Falkenberg.
Harris County could have avoided legal liability if Sheriff Tommy Thomas’ department had simply done its job by investigating the claims of brothers Sean Carlos Ibarra and Erik Adam Ibarra and taking any disciplinary action — so much as a letter of reprimand — against the deputies involved.
“The sheriff could have avoided all this with a letter,” Kelley says.
But instead of actually looking into the Ibarras’ claims that the deputies stormed into their home without probable cause, drew their guns, arrested them, seized their cameras and confiscated their film, the sheriff’s department argued that it couldn’t investigate because, technically, the Ibarras’ written complaint didn’t count.
Why? It wasn’t typed onto the right form, or, as one representative of the sheriff’s department put it, it wasn’t presented on pink paper with a blue ribbon. After all, the sheriff’s department can’t make it too easy for citizens to file complaints. Then everyone who’s had his home invaded, property confiscated and spent a night in jail for no good reason could complain about it.
[County Attorney Michael] Stafford, when asked what lessons had been learned during the ordeal, said communications between his office, the DA’s office and sheriff’s office could have been better. He said the sheriff’s department could have done a better job following its procedures on investigating complaints.
The suit may be settled, but the underlying issue isn’t. We’ll be hearing a lot more about this between now and November. I’ll keep my eyes open for the current Chron story on this.