Law enforcement departments are frequently criticized for doing too little in disciplining officers. But Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia has taken a different approach, bolstering the Internal Affairs office and firing numerous deputies and detention officers who have broken laws or violated regulations.
According to the Houston Chronicle, from January 1 to April 1 of this year, Garcia fired nine deputies, detention officers, and clerks. Since he took over the position in January 2009, he’s fired about 95 employees and “handed down around 830 reprimands and suspensions without pay to others in the department.”
Among those fired are jail officers who slept on the job and had inappropriate contact or sexual relationships with inmates. Others, like the deputy who got into a drunken brawl while holding a weapon in the back of his pants, or the one who put his hand on a female inmates butt, were suspended without pay.
Although he has significantly increased disciplinary actions when compared with his predecessor, there are still complaints.
Community activist Johnny Mata said, “In some of those serious cases, the disciplinary action needs to be harsher punishment. We need to start taking these actions very seriously. It shouldn’t just be suspensions. In some cases they should be terminated.”
One woman, who was in the jail for child support issues, agrees. The officer who groped her behind while she was in custody faced suspension and nothing more.
Another deputy who left the control room open in the jail for 18 minutes while he handed out razors to inmates was similarly suspended, despite having 9 other violations in the prior 24 months.
Those fired include one deputy for giving cocaine to his girlfriend and later stalking her, a records clerk who was arrested for marijuana possession, and a female jailer who married a convicted felon without informing the jail.
Law enforcement officers would argue that they shouldn’t be held to a higher standard than any employee at any other job. But they would be wrong. Because they are involved in the temporary removal of rights of the people and they are there to enforce the law, they should be held to a higher standard.
While Sheriff Garcia can be commended for going further than his predecessor, we shouldn’t be too quick to congratulate mediocrity.
When you are on the receiving end of police misconduct, you know how it feels to want further action taken on the part of the department. But often police misconduct isn’t even punished.
If you are facing criminal charges, you may have had your own experience with questionable behavior on the part of the police. Too often, however, this behavior has no bearing on your case.
Contact our offices today to discuss your charges and how the police’s actions may affect the outcome of your case. Perhaps we can do something to not only bring attention to any abuses you suffered but to also minimize the effects of your criminal case in the process.