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K-Mart Kiddie Roundup: Aguirre Suspended

Well, Captain Mark Aguirre has been suspended with pay pending the outcome of an internal investigation into the K-Mart Kiddie Roundup. As Kevin and Ginger have noted, it looks like Aguirre will ultimately be the fall guy for this debacle, as even the Houston Police Officers Union has backed away from him.

(On a side note, will someone please explain to me the difference between “suspended with pay” and “extra vacation”? I realize that this is likely leading to Aguirre’s dismissal, and even if it doesn’t the suspension will go on his Permanent Record, but still, how exactly is paid time off a punishment?)

Kevin has already noted the similarities between the sidebar story on Aguirre and this prescient feature from the Houston Press, so I’ll just point to this Chron op-ed piece which asks some of the questions that we’ve been asking since the shinola first hit the fan, and to this somewhat self-serving op-ed piece by Houston Police Officers’ Union President Hans Martuciuc, which blames poor staffing for the raid.

One thing that has struck me about the whole Aguirre case has been the disparity between his popularity with the people in his precinct and his popularitywith the brass. Aguirre is apparently a proponent of broken-windows policing, which was used with wide success in New York City in the early 90s. Given the longstanding problems that the Houston inner city has had with nuisance crimes, it’s no surprise to me that the neighborhood associations love Captain Aguirre. I’m less clear on why this is a problem with the powers that be, though I suppose anyone can be abrasive enough to overshadow their successes.

Of course, as the TNR article linked above notes, when broken-windows policing turns into zero-tolerance policing – and the K-Mart Kiddie Roundup is a clear case of zero-tolerance policing – community support can drop off in a hurry, precisely because more innocent bystanders get swept up with the bad guys, sometimes with deadly results. I hope that when and if Aguirre is shown the door that HPD and the mayor’s office recognize that the problem was as much personal as procedural and that they shouldn’t abandon proven tactics as a response to overzealousness. On the other hand, given HPD’s longstanding reputation for being out of control, this baby may have to be sacrificed with the bath water. One way or the other, I suspect we’ll all be a little worse off.

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  1. R. Alex says:

    There is probably a case to be made for suspension-with-pay. Without it, there are two other options: (1) Let him continue working the streets or (2) start punishing officers before an appropriate investigation.

    It’s simply a way to get them out of the way until you fire them. When I thought about it in that light, I didn’t mind it so much.

    If you do still mind it, however, blame your commie union friends :).


  2. Alex says:

    The difference is that when you’re on vacation, you aren’t accumulating further vacation. When you’re suspended wiith pay I suspect you probably are.

    It isn’t exactly a terrifying punishment, but I can understand the logic behind using it pending the outcome of an investigation.