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Harris County officers deserve more respect

Community-oriented policing is a strategy that allows officers to patrol the same areas and build relationships with the citizens in that area. Research shows that high visibility and strong community relationships are linked to a decrease in many types of crime. These articles downplay the importance of community-oriented policing and the role of police officers in protecting the public. There are no law enforcement agencies that embody the principles of creating community relationships like the eight police agencies in Harris County.

In addition to serving civil paperwork, officers regularly field calls for service, including responding to civil disturbances, assaults and domestic violence, and enforce traffic throughout the province. Additionally, deputies play an important role in providing backup for both the Houston Police Department (HPD) and the Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) outside of their contract areas.

One article complains about the number of agents assigned to the toll road network. It highlights the jump from 148 to 160 officers patrolling the Sam Houston Tollway. Toll road data provided by Harris County Constable Precinct 5 Chief KE Hubbard shows that in 2023, deputies on the toll road system conducted 6,118 traffic crashes (15 of which were fatalities) and made 2,801 arrests (including 1,345 DWI/DUI arrests). The nonprofit Mothers Against Drunk Drivers regularly rewards tollway agents for their efforts to remove drunk drivers from the roadway. This dispels the idea that the officers are just ticket writers.

I was shocked by the lack of respect shown to the work our officers have done to keep our citizens safe. It is unfair for the Chronicle to distort statistics and portray deputy officers as glorified security guards who do not engage in violent crimes. I have known deputies who have been assaulted, seriously injured in car accidents, shot at, and killed, including by drunk drivers during traffic assignments. There are enough (too many) names of deputies on the Texas Peace Officers’ Memorial in Austin.

The Harris County Deputy Constables Association has advocated the need for a civil service for deputies since the inception of our charter in 2018. While there is no consensus among constables, we believe that this system, as defined in the Texas Government Code ( Chapter 158), County Civil Service), would best protect deputies. Although agencies such as HCCO Precinct 5 and HCCO Precinct 1 have developed procedures to ensure fairness in hiring, promotions and discipline, there is no uniformity among all eight agencies that could ensure that fairness.

So we have to ask: Why has the Chronicle decided to publish a series of articles that aren’t very complementary to the work Harris County police agencies are doing? Does the timing coincide with the rumor circulating through the police department about reducing the number of police stations from the current eight to four?

One of the articles rightly stated that any attempt to reduce officers’ role in the community has been met with public outcry. The reason is simple: officers respond quickly and are more attuned to the needs of the community. These articles appear intended to eliminate that support so that there will be less opposition if the Commissioners Court comes after the officers again. The citizens have made it clear that they love the service the officers provide!

While our elected county officials debate the size and role of constables in Harris County, the men and women within constables’ offices continue to provide excellent law enforcement services to the community. The officers’ offices provide true community policing that HPD and the HCSO can only talk and dream about. These agencies are far too spread out to develop real relationships with the communities they serve. This explains why officers receive so much support from the communities they serve, which of course drives politicians crazy. It’s time to take the politics out of law enforcement in Harris County.

Cesar Troy Morin, President, Harris County Deputy Constables Association