ISSUES

SAFETY CRISIS

Harris County is in the midst of a safety crisis. Rape cases in 2019 were cleared at a rate of only 11.5%. That means if you are raped in Harris County, there is about a 90% chance your rapist walks away. On my first day in office I will create a special investigations unit dedicated solely to clearance of sex crimes. The clearance rate for burglaries in 2019 was 2.29%. Rates that low violate your fundamental sense of security at home and work. There are 101 budgeted patrol positions that are unfilled. I will immediately fill those vacancies upon taking office.

MENTAL HEALTH

There are only 5 full time psychiatrists and 3 psychologists for around 3000 mental health inmates. Most (legitimate) mental health inmates have Axis I disorders as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Axis 1 Includes Schizophrenia, Major Depressive Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, Panic Attack, etc. A large number of inmates suffer from Axis II disorders which include personality disorders, and intellectual disabilities. A lot of these disorders are undiagnosed due to a lack of funds and staff. These disorders are crucial in the dispense of justice.

There is yet another problem of inmates feigning psychological illness and getting away with it. The mental health professionals do not run psychometric testing and interview these inmates sufficiently due to the outlandish ratio of inmates to mental health staff. One good psychometric tool is the (Structured Interview of Reported System) (SIRS), and it could be used as a cost effective psychometric weeding tool to separate the fakers from the real inmates that need help, reducing cost in the long run.

I will use the resources we have at HCSO, train and educate existing and new staff as well as lobby with the Texas State Sheriffs Association for the Texas government to open up more mental health facilities for non-violent mental health inmates. I will also support and maintain the growth of the Diversion Program.

PROCESS IMPROVEMENTS

What happened in early September was completely avoidable. Let me make myself clear, the officers were acting on orders. This is a failure of leadership, not of the officers. Just as surgeons and pilots have a checklist before beginning their work, so too should those who are involved in the felony warrant process. And that begins with a 3-point confirmation process starting at the top to ensure they are deploying officers to the correct address. Grave mistakes like this only serve to further degrade civilian trust in law enforcement and my mission is to right that ship in Harris County.

I’ll also connect civilians with law enforcement through technology that already exists, but is not being utilized anywhere within HCSO. Imagine knowing when there is an active crime within a 2-mile radius of you, your children, or your home. We will roll out an app so that you are able to act on safety alerts in real time.

COVID-19

Law enforcement officers are on the frontline providing safety for the community, they are owed our best efforts to keep them from falling ill. It is also our duty to contain the virus as much as possible for the inmates within the walls of our jails. Social distancing while incarcerated is difficult at best. Combine that with improper cleaning procedures, inadequate cleaning supplies, and unsanitary kitchen environments and COVID-19 takes hold of not only inmates and HCSO employees, but the virus is also brought home to spread outside the jail.

I will implement a more stringent COVID-19 containment training program for both employees and inmates. Mitigation efforts need to be ongoing including regular PPE fit checks and inventory monitoring.

BOND REFORM

In theory, bond reform makes sense. But in practice, it’s caused a lot of problems. Without a statewide, standardized system that sets bond on risk, the current bail reform has contributed to the degradation of safety in Harris County. For the last two years, the work of law enforcement officers has been subverted by judges playing fast and loose with lenient bond policies. There are more than 50 examples of violent, repeat offenders in Harris County being released on extremely low, REPEAT bonds that have gone on to commit murder in the last two years. In fact, last week, a murder suspect with alleged gang ties was released last month on his SIXTH bond. Should someone accused of shoplifting sit in jail for months on end just because they can’t afford bond? Not if this is their first offense or prior offenses have been nonviolent. But a shoplifter that has multiple priors showing them to be a violent offender? Yes, that person should stay in jail until their trial.

USE OF FORCE

When I am Sheriff, my officers will be required to follow the 1-Plus Rule which simply means officers, under normal circumstances, are only allowed to use one level of force above the amount of force used by the suspect/attacker/adversary. Also, right now in HCSO there is a lot of supervision-by-intimidation going on. That sort of system leads to junior officers going along with things they normally wouldn’t in order to keep their jobs. Perhaps the worst, most recent national case that illustrates supervision by intimidation is George Floyd’s case. You had 3 junior officers going along with what their senior officer was doing.

DEPARTMENTAL CHANGE

Morale in the department has been low for several years and it’s due to ineffective leadership. Today, in HCSO there is a lot of supervision-by-intimidation. That sort of system leads to junior officers going along with things they normally wouldn’t in order to keep their jobs. We will implement transformational change to bring on a culture shift that will restore trust in the way our officers interact with our community, and each other.

I will have an open-door policy and commit to regular dialogue with the 4,500 men and women of HCSO and encourage feedback.

REVOLVING DOOR INMATES

Violent crime in Harris County has been on an upward trend for several years and spiked around 50% in Houston as COVID-19 descended upon the 4th largest city in the country. The lion’s share, 74.9%, of those arrested for felony offenses had previous convictions. Recidivism is the malignancy feeds Harris County’s rising crime rates.

I will partner with faith and community leaders to reduce the revolving door of returning inmates through programs that increase self sufficiency, spiritual growth and sense of purpose.