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Questioning the new Sheriff’s staff

That didn’t take long.

Ron Hickman

Among Ron Hickman’s initial moves as sheriff was filling each of his first eight command posts with white males, a choice critics said shows a lack of vision in a jurisdiction as diverse as Harris County.

These employees range from a major in charge of criminal investigations to an assistant chief who oversees the jail.

Hickman called it insulting to question whether race or gender were considerations in his early staffing assignments.

“I’m still researching the top-level personnel. Given that I haven’t finished assembling it,” he said, “I think it would be unfair for me to say anything.”

However, Adrian Garcia, the county’s first Latino sheriff, called it “unconscionable” that all those on Hickman’s command staff to date are white and male. Garcia resigned to run for mayor of Houston.

Some rumblings of discontent also have begun among the rank and file.

“A lot of African-American deputies have approached me … asking me to say something about this. We are going back to the days of (Sheriff) Tommy Thomas,” said J.M. “Smokie” Phillips Jr., president of the Afro-American Sheriff’s Deputy League. “They are expressing concern that we are going backwards to the old days of racism, the good old boys’ system, discriminatory practices and disparity in treatment.”

Robert Goerlitz, president of the Harris County Deputies Organization, which endorsed Hickman’s appointment, said, “I think the choices are being made more based on ability than based on what race or gender (the individuals) are. It’s detrimental to an organization when you make your decisions based on race or gender.”

The president of the Mexican American Sheriffs Organization, Marty Rocha, declined to weigh in until Hickman completes his assignments.

“We’re going to have to give him the opportunity to set up his command,” Rocha said. “We’re going to wait until he finishes. … It’s not a done deal, and he’s still moving folks back and forth.”

Let’s stipulate up front that the new guy gets to put in his people. That’s expected and understood. Garcia’s people had to know this was coming, and Campos is correct that none of this happens if he had stayed put. And he still has some slots to fill, so this isn’t the end of the story. But come on, you can’t have an all-white-guy command staff at the Harris County Sheriff’s Office in 2015. Anyone who claims that the best-qualified candidates in every case so far just happen to be white guys is not in touch with reality. I mean, we all know this, right? Give Sheriff Hickman the benefit of the doubt for now, but let’s keep an eye on this. In the meantime, I agree with Stace: It would be nice to have a Democratic candidate or two announce their intention to run. This is the marquee race now, let’s get it going.

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  1. Steven Houston says:

    I’m no fan of quotas. One look at how Houston has been damaged by hiring less qualified people based on race and gender over the years, then appointing less qualified people for roles in upper management, shows how blind some can be. With Hickman though, his criteria seems based mainly on loyalty to him rather than any particular expertise or even the implication made. He didn’t pick them because they were white males, that just “happens” to be who his inner circle is comprised of.

    Given the huge differences between the responsibilities of the sheriff and a constable, Hickman’s selection of his pals greatly limits the quality of expertise that state law doesn’t allow him to shy away from (ie: getting rid of the jail from his responsibilities; whether he signs off or not, the buck still stops with him). I get the loyalty concept even if I think it is a mistake but given the reality of the situation, he’s going to lose a lot of voters over it, and more importantly, he’s already losing some of his best qualified people. He might want to re-think getting rid of that expensive consultant given his actions so far, proving yet again why he didn’t run for the office in 2012.

  2. Bill Daniels says:

    When the Afro-American Sheriff’s Deputy League and the Mexican American Sheriffs (sic) Association disband, then I’ll stop worrying about unconscionable actions by our sheriffs. How do I know I am not being discriminated against by a deputy belonging to one of those groups during an encounter with them? They have made clear their loyalty, and it isn’t to the sheriff’s department as a whole, or to me, as a citizen that doesn’t identify as Mexican or black.

    As far as quotas go, I think Steven pretty much nailed his whole post. If only there was some kind of score card. OK, we need three women, five Mexican Americans, two non Mexican Latinos, six Vietnamese, two one legged black people, at least one Polish lesbian, etc. BINGO!

  3. Steven Houston says:

    Bill, technically those union groups first loyalty is to their members, just like the two far, far larger unions whose membership includes mostly white members. Each group (all of them, not just the two smaller groups) were formed because of lousy treatment by those voted into office and their appointees routinely having the idea that employees were slaves whose first loyalty was not to taxpayers but to the elected official. Once upon a time, every time a newly elected official came into office, a massive sweep of employees took place, not just the command staff and other appointees (the city had the same problem; each organization showing some bouncing between being a bottom level street cop one day and being in charge of lots of others the day of swearing in).

    When Garcia was first elected, the rank & file deputies had a great deal of hope that he would lobby to get them some of the benefits the city had acquired under Mayor Brown, Radack and a few others making it crystal clear that they would be long dead before it would happen. Commissioner’s Court proceeded to give a modest raise but nothing worth mentioning, increasing medical premiums with far more regularity and lowering pensions to save money. Over time, the existing good old boy system came to the realization that Garcia was not their best friend and was not going to fight CC in the court of public opinion as they wanted, most believing Hickman is just another political hack for CC so he’ll be no better.

    So while Hickman is making up brand new positions that cost big bucks in order to keep his pals happy in do nothing jobs, Radack and others are celebrating. More effort is being placed on “uncovering” things done by Garcia’s regime at the moment than any crime fighting measures or sensible policies to further the goals of voters and residents of the county too, so worrying about employee groups placing the populace after their own interests seems to change the focus from the appointed leader and his buddies that are doing the same thing.