Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The HPOU's Hurt Over Hurtt's Remarks

The HPOU's Hurt Over Hurtt's Remarks and they aren't going to ignore it this time.

Frontline Police Officers to Be Surveyed about HPD Management

Houston's First Responders Concerned by City's Crime Increases and Finger Pointing by Chief Hurtt


CONTACT PERSON: Hans Marticiuc, 832.200.3400

(HOUSTON) -- The Houston Police Officers' Union today announced it has initiated a survey of Houston police officers to determine their professional opinion on the job performance and policies of Chief Hurtt. This survey comes two years after Chief Hurtt assumed the top leadership position at HPD, a two-year period during which violent crime in Houston increased after a long-term period during which crime had declined.

More than 4,700-plus surveys have already been mailed to HPD officers, and the HPOU hopes to gather, tabulate, and announce the results on July 11.

“We believe that the people of Houston, the mayor and city council all deserve to know what the first responders of HPD have concluded about the police department’s leadership,” said Hans Marticiuc, HPOU president. Houston’s police officers have routinely expressed serious concerns about the leadership of Chief Harold Hurtt since late last year. As the first responders in the fight against crime, we have repeatedly asked that Chief Hurtt stop focusing on trivial matters that insult and alienate officers and, instead, get serious about the crime increases in Houston. Instead, the police chief has systematically returned HPD to an autocratic style of management that has put public safety second.”

When Mayor Bill White announced Chief Hurtt as the new chief, the Mayor promised that Chief Hurtt would be a progressive leader who would uphold the traditional, and successful, crime-fighting partnership with HPOU. This “win-win” partnership in years past produced positive results in public safety for the citizens of our great city, when crime dropped to historic lows.

Rather than take a positive, partnership-oriented cue from the Mayor, Chief Hurtt has instead chosen to alienate the rank and file officers while his ineffective policies have permitted crime – including violent crime – to surge on his watch. A Houston Chronicle story last week noted that “Homicides went from 272 in 2004 to 334 last year in Houston. In comparison, Dallas saw its homicides decrease slightly, from 248 to 202; San Antonio had a slight drop from 94 to 86; and Austin held steady during the two-year period at 26.” Other big cities known for violent crime, such as Baltimore, Detroit and Los Angeles, also saw declines from 2004 to 2005 according to this same report. (Edie: That pretty much puts the skids on the "all our murders are at the hands of the Katrina folks" argument seeing as how Dallas, San Antonio & Austin also got their fair share of the influx. See the article in: Houston Chronicle's archive; Date: Tue 06/13/2006; Section: A; Page: 1; Edition: 3 STAR; Violent crimes rise 2.5% in '05 / FBI statistics show Houston's increase nearly matched that)

Just three days after this disturbing news report, Chief Hurtt tried the change the subject by issuing a defensive and misleading news release in which he falsely claimed that officers don't "agree with the urgency” of police overtime initiatives. Don’t blame me, the chief seems to have said, the buck stops some place else. (Edie: I tried to find the article in the Chronicle archives, but had no luck. There's entirely too many article with "HPD" and none with "overtime initiatives".)

Chief Hurtt’s blatantly false assertions and political spin do no one any good – not the public, not the mayor who has promised to work with Houston’s police officers in fighting crime, and not the men and women who wear the HPD uniform.

Contrary to Chief Hurtt’s news release, HPD officers support zero-tolerance programs that target crime hot spots in the city. We continue to believe such a program would work better, however, if the chief tried working with, not against, the officers who are on the front lines in the fight against crime so that officers are effectively deployed, scheduled and equipped. For example, unlike the successful 655 Patrol Strategy Program implemented by former Mayor Bob Lanier in the early 1990s to deal with the Houston crime crisis, we are concerned that the temporary overtime strategies implemented by Chief Hurtt may only serve to push violent criminal activities to other less protected areas of the city.

“At a time when violent crime is increasing in Houston, we are concerned that Chief Hurtt has chosen to focus on misplaced priorities such as officers’ tattoos, facial hair, and other cosmetic matters that have little to do with an officer's ability to protect people in our city from deadly criminals,” Marticiuc summarized

I had my say on HPD's tattoo policy here. I don't ever like to see police morale low. These folks have enough on their plates without it raining down from above too. I will be anxiously awaiting the results of the HPOU's survey from Officer Marticiuc around July 11, 2006.

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