BLUES Police Newspaper “Guardian of the Badge and Keeper of the Pride”
Vol. 35, No. 6 * June 2017
“Justice will only be achieved when those who are not injured by crime feel as indignant as those who are”
King Solomon, 10th century B.C.
Dallas police honor victims of July ambush, 80 other 'true heroes' killed in line of duty Victor Lozada Jr. was studying to be a music teacher when his father, a Dallas police corporal, died in 2008 after crashing his motorcycle while escorting a motorcade. Now, Lozada uses music to honor him and other Dallas officers killed in the line of duty. The choir director leads his elementary school students and the Dallas police choir at the city’s annual police memorial service. “Every year, it flares up and you get emotional again,” Lozada, 31, said tearing up. This year’s memorial service was more somber than in the past. Four names were added to the Dallas Police Memorial, which now honors 84 Dallas police officers. “This year, our hearts overflow with grief over the loss,” Mayor Mike Rawlings told the crowd of hundreds at the start of the ceremony. Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Patrick Zamarripa and Michael Smith died last summer after a lone gunman ambushed officers downtown. Dallas Area Rapid Transit Officer Brent Thompson was also killed. Lozada and his students teamed up with a composer last fall to write a song about the ambush. They performed it during the ceremony. “You see those five families from last July and I feel for them,” Lozada said. Interim Police Chief David Pughes thanked the families for their sacrifices and said he prays there won’t be more onduty deaths. "We know that good doesn't always conquer evil, and today is a reminder of that," Pughes said. "But where would we be if good people didn't answer God's call to fight bad people?" Relatives of the fallen officers stood as
their names were called during last month’s ceremony. The service was punctuated by a 21gun salute, renditions of taps and "Amazing Grace," a riderless horse and a flyover by the police helicopter. Zamarripa’s mother, Valerie, wore a button with her son’s police portrait. The officer’s 3-year-old daughter wore a blue and white striped dress. The family had traveled to Washington, D.C., earlier in the week for a national ceremony commemorating officers slain in the line of duty. Valerie Zamarripa said after the Dallas ceremony that she wants her son’s memory to stay alive. “We always have to respect who these police officers are,” she said. “He is my son and will always be my son.” It was a day of reflection for the officers’ relatives, colleagues and those who didn’t know them but wanted to pay their respects. Severo Perez, who teaches criminal justice at the Judge Barefoot Sanders Magnet Center in Dallas ISD, brought his students to the ceremony. Perez is a former state trooper whose partner was killed in a routine traffic stop in 1983. Perez said he and Trooper Russell Lynn Boyd had switched shifts the day Eliseo Moreno killed Boyd and five other people in a 50-hour rampage near Houston. Perez encouraged his high school students to talk to relatives of the fallen Dallas officers to understand what it’s like to be in law enforcement. “It’s sad because I want to do this when I grow up and my family’s going to be put in the same situation when I go to work,” said 15-year-old Kylie Cox, who wants to be in the FBI. “But to me, personally, this makes me want to do it even
Dallas Police officer Ron Cunningham sits with a riderless horse as 21 Gun Salute officers file in formation during last month’s memorial service for fallen peace officers.
more, to protect people.” Victor Lozada Sr.’s name on the police memorial had a steady line of visitors. His son’s choir students lined up behind the name to trace it on paper they took home as keepsakes. Many of them stuck around to hug the officers who attended the ceremony. Lozada Sr. had moved to Dallas from Houston to become a cop. He died after losing control of his motorcycle on the Houston Street viaduct while escorting presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton’s motorcade. It was a Friday. That Monday, the younger Lozada told his family they should get back to their
normal lives because that’s what his father would have wanted. “Always do what makes you happy, and the rest will fall in place,” his father often told him. But moving on has been hard. And seeing the families of the ambush victims from last year makes it harder. “I wish I could tell them the pain goes away, but it doesn’t,” Lozada said, his voice shaking as tears streamed down his cheeks. “The pain will never go away, but we are a family and the police department is there for them — all the time.” Dallas Morning News
CHECK OUT OUR NEW WEBSITE: WWW.THEBLUESNEWS.COM
The BLUES Newspaper
Gov. Greg Abbott signs 'sanctuary cities' ban into law
Gov. Greg Abbott signed a sweeping ban on "sanctuary cities" into law last month, giving police officers new authority to question a detained person's immigration status and blocking local entities from passing laws that would prohibit these questions from officers. "The reason why so many people come to America is because we are the nation of laws," he said, seconds after dotting his signature on Senate Bill 4 on Facebook Live. "Texas is doing its part to keep it that way." The legislation allows for misdemeanor criminal penalties for law enforcement officials who refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. Fines could reach $25,000 for repeat violations. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said that the bill "will ensure that no city in Texas will be allowed to ignore the law," thanking Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, who wrote the bill. Immigrants' rights groups and police forces statewide - including in Houston criticized the bill as potentially sowing distrust of law enforcement among immi-
grants. Last week, the Republicancontrolled Legislature issued its final approval of the bill, which Abbott had listed as a priority for the session. Senate Bill 4 applies to officers across the state, including on college campuses. It excludes those who are contracted by religious groups and schools, government mental health care facilities and hospitals. Abbott cited California resident Kate Steinle's 2015 murder, committed by an immigrant in the U.S. illegally, as he described why the law is necessary. "He should never have been in this country. If he hadn't, Kate would still be alive today," Abbott said. Before Abbott signed the bill, he criticized the policies of Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez, who said she would no longer cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement requests to hold immigrants while federal authorities investigate their status. "Those policies are sanctuary city policies (and) won't be tolerated in Texas," he said. The bill is expected to be challenged in court. The ACLU said the bill encourages racial profiling and is expected to "clog" Texas's jails. "It will not stand," said Terri Burke, the ACLU's executive director, in a statement. Abbott said he has no qualms about its legality, saying its "already been tested at the United States Supreme and approved there." The event marked the first time that a Texas governor has enacted state law over social media, as Abbott did. Protest groups announced plans to picket the Capitol the next week, anticipating that Abbott might sign the bill into law. By signing it on a Sunday, he avoided any showdown. "As Governor, my top priority is public safety, and this bill furthers that objective by keeping dangerous criminals off our streets," Abbott said in a statement after the Facebook Live signing. "It's inexcus(Continued on page 3)
FARMERS OFFERS DISCOUNTED RATES FOR POLICE OFFICERS! Hi, I am Karen Wylie, a local Farmers insurance agent. Please call us to see how we can save your family on personal and business insurance. Also ask us about our life insurance policy that continues after retirement. You can reach us anytime via phone, email, fax or text.
Karen Wylie Insurance Agency 12215 Heatherwick Cypress, TX 77429 (281)379-4820(work) (888)616-0476(fax)
Auto Home Flood Life Health Commercial
POLICE CHIEFS IN TEXAS
PUSH FOR MORE WOMEN IN LAW ENFORCEMENT Police chiefs across the state are pushing for more women to join the ranks in law enforcement. While there are more women in law enforcement than in the past, the percentage of women policing in Texas is still low. "The situation is, there are only 11.5 percent of women in law enforcement, so if you stop and calculate how many are in supervisor positions or administration, there's really only about 7% on the street," said South Padre Island Police Chief Randy Smith. The North Richland Hills Police Department in Dallas, along with the Texas Police Chiefs Association, got together to start a push to recruit more women for Texas law enforcement. "For years law enforcement has been eager to get more women amongst its ranks," Smith said. The TPCA chose five Texas agencies to highlight in its video to promote the female officer initiative. South Padre Island Police Department was a part of the chosen few. Karen Hernandez, an officer with SPI PD, was featured in the video. "It wasn't what I thought it was going to be, but it was fun,” Hernandez said. “It's good, it brings awareness to females, because there are not a lot of females in law enforcement, and there should be more
females in law enforcement." Hernandez said women shouldn't shy away from applying. "If it's something that they've thought about, or have been wanting to do, they should give it a try,” said Hernandez. “Yes, it is a male-dominated profession, but there's always a need for females." Both Hernandez and South Padre Police Department Lt. Claudine O’Carroll believe in inspiring young girls to pursue a career in law enforcement, so they aren't discouraged by the lack of a female presence. "We try to have them involved in the whole presentation and encourage them, because these little girls have a lot of questions about women in this field," O'Carroll said. "A lot of them look to us, and so it's very important for this department to do its role by trying to encourage women to apply." Law enforcement should reflect the community, according to O’Carroll. "I think sometimes people want to communicate better with a woman than they will a man--victims of crime, child victims," said O'Carroll. "But then, there's a place for men in this, too. It's a balance, and I think the more diversity you have in your police work force, the more you can appeal and communicate with the community your serving." valleycentral.com
The BLUES Newspaper
Other cities may join Austin in fighting ‘sanctuary cities’ ban Many of the Democratic centers in Texas appear to be headed toward a collaborative legal fight against the recently signed Senate Bill 4 banning so-called “sanctuary cities,” as some of Texas’ largest cities and counties start taking action to sue the state. Last month, local elected officials from Austin, Dallas, Houston, El Paso County and San Antonio all pledged to fight SB 4 by possibly assisting Austin in defending itself in a lawsuit filed by Attorney General Ken Paxton or suing the state outright in what Austin City Council Member Greg Casar characterized as a “joint” effort. Dallas City Council Member Philip Kingston said that the Dallas City Council could vote to take legal action against SB 4 and possibly come to the aid of Austin. “We have lots of legal resources,” Kingston said. “The fight is now in the court and it is time to stand together.” Should a coalition of cities emerge to challenge the constitutionality of SB 4, it would make for a rare instance of a group of cities challenging the state, pitting the left leaning urban centers again the state’s Republican majority. Already the border city El Cenizo and Maverick County have filed suit challenging SB 4. El Paso County commissioners voted to pursue legal action against the state. The League of United Latin American Citizens has also sued over the bill. School districts have previously banded together to challenge the state’s school finance system, winning some victories. The elected officials and an attorney from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which was also named as a defendant in Paxton’s lawsuit, said they would not talk legal strategies. But MALDEF Regional Counsel Marisa Bono had no qualms about mocking the bill. “Frankly this bill is like a bad law school exam where students have to find the most constitutional violations possible,” Bono said. “Truly the bill is that bad.” Earlier last month Gov. Greg Ab-
bott signed SB 4 into law with little advance notice, broadcasting its signing live on Facebook. Some criticized the move as a way to avoid protests that would likely have resulted had immigrant advocacy groups known Abbott’s plan ahead of time. Its signing came after a contentious fight in the Texas House, where Democrats’ attempts to stall or water down the bill backfired and led to a more strict bill enabling local law enforcement to inquire about a person’s immigration status during routine police encounters such as traffic stops. Some on the left have dubbed the law the “show me your papers” law, a description Abbott rejected. Before that, Austin and Travis County had become the epicenter of the fight between conservatives and progressives over immigration issues after Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez put in place a policy that ignored many requests from federal immigration officials to hold jail inmates for possible deportation. In response, Abbott vowed to “hammer” Travis County and yanked $1.5 million in public safety grants that went toward diversion programs such as drug court, veterans court and the Phoenix Court. Abbott also said he would work to chuck Hernandez from office. Hernandez has said she would follow the letter of the law, implying that when SB 4 takes effect on Sept. 1, she would undo her signature immigration policy at the jail. At the rally, Casar said that allies of SB 4 would have local leaders stand down in their fight against the bill. “They want their local elected officials like those standing behind me to cave in and betray their communities at the end of the summer,” Casar said. “But we are sending a strong message today alongside community organizations which is, instead of caving in, the governor is going to get a summer of resistance.” The Austin City Council was set on to direct the city’s legal team to prepare litigation against the state. If attendance of the rally is any indication of support, (Continued on page 7)
(USPS PE 16618) 5230 Woodleaf Dr.
Cumming, GA 30040
If your department has over 10 officers and would like to receive copies of The BLUES, send us your request on department letterhead and we will be happy to add your agency to our growing readership...FREE!
THE STAFF Shaun Harpstrite ............. …………….Publisher Deputy Bill Wolfe, Llano SO…………..Chaplain Sgt. Buddy Williams, HPD, Ret……..Contributor
E-Mail: email@example.com Visit our website at
The BLUES is published monthly by Sharp Publishing, LLC, 5230 Woodleaf Drive Cumming, GA 30040. Subscriptions are available at $29.95 to cover printing and handling for twelve monthly issues. The opinions expressed in The BLUES do not necessarily reflect the opinion of this publication or its staff. The BLUES neither endorses nor accepts liability concerning any advertisements within this publication. No material becomes the property of The BLUES unless prior arrangements have been made in writing. The BLUES reserves the right to edit any material submitted for publication. The BLUES is copyrighted and nothing appearing in it may be reprinted wholly or in part without permission of the publisher. Periodicals postage paid at US Post Office, 525 Tribble Gap Road, Cumming, GA 30040. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to The Blues Police Newspaper at 5230 Woodleaf Drive Cumming, GA 30040
The Blues Police Newspaper TX House OKs bill mandating classes on police interaction AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The Texas House has voted to require high schools to provide instruction on how to best interact with law enforcement in situations like traffic stops. The bill passed via voice vote last month. It comes after a series of violent encounters between police and the public that made national news. Sponsored by two Democratic senators, a similar version passed the Senate in March.
Supporters want to teach students what's expected of them when stopped by police. The bill requires instructions for officers on their responsibilities, too. It would have state education and law enforcement officials develop a curriculum for the 2018-2019 school year. The instructions would also be required in future driver's license instruction books and part of driver education courses.
tic violence and robbery. There are deadly consequences to not enforcing the law, and Texas has now become a state where those practices are not tolerated. With this bill, we are doing away with those that seek to promote lawlessness in Texas."
(Continued from page 2)
able to release individuals from jail that have been charged with heinous crimes like sexual assault against minors, domes-
The BLUES Newspaper
Chaplain’s Corner By Chaplain Bill Wolfe Llano County Sheriff’s Dept. The Parable of the Lawnmower? Welcome to the Chaplain’s Corner one more time. Seems like nearly every month something comes up to use up all my time the day before my deadline. This time I caught a DWI not long before shift change. It was a good thing because my driver and his passenger didn’t speak English and my Spanish isn’t much once I get outside the Mexican restaurant. My buddy on the night shift, Deputy 764, is bilingual and bailed me out on the SFST, but it still turned into a 17 hour day. <sigh> It wasn’t today, but one fine Spring day, I pulled and pushed the riding mower out of the shed which wasn’t as easy as it sounds – the tires were flat (hazard of mowing under mesquite) and the battery was dead from sitting all winter. I had to get the mower out to where I could pull the “ranch truck” up close and use the little lighter-plug compressor to air up the tires. And then roll the mower around to where I could jump it off. (It’s amazing how much easier it is to move with inflated tires.) Once I hooked up to the battery in the pickup, the mower turned right over and started after just a few coughs. I didn’t mention that the gas can was empty, so all I had was what gas was left in the tank. I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to finish the front and back yards without having to push the mower back to the shed. (I think maybe I need to invest in a new battery so I don’t have to jump it each time I need to start the engine.) Hmmm… seems like there might “be a sermon in there.” Wanna bet? <grin> Well, let’s what I can do with “The Parable of the Lawnmower.” I guess the place to start is with the lawnmower itself. My mower is more than 15 years old now; and mowing about 3 acres of grass, weeds, fire ant mounds, gopher mounds, mesquite twigs, and cactus has taken its toll. In other words, it’s no longer in mint condition… dusty, faded, scratched & dented – just plain tired. (Sounds like me when I come in after riding on the mower for 4 hours when it hasn’t rained in weeks.) But as “tired” as it is, there’s still a mowing job ahead of
it, and each time I go out, it “rises to the occasion” one more time – sometimes needing a bit more “help” than others. Have you ever felt like that by the time you get your “40” in for the week? How ‘bout when you get home from your second job? Sometimes life just uses us hard, or as the old cowboys would say, “I feel like I’ve been rode hard and put away wet.” So, the old mower is a pretty good picture of the way we can get to feeling not only physically and emotionally, but also spiritually as well – dusty, dry and used up. The mower was designed and crafted (created, if you will) for a specific job – to mow grass. And the mower “has that job to do” so to speak. We humans have been created with a specific task to do, and that is to worship God. As I was gathering thoughts and typing, I realized that the mower doesn’t have to be pretty to do its job. Sometimes we can allow ourselves to be convinced that we have to be “pretty” to be of use to God or even to come into His house to worship him. When we’re feeling used up, that’s easier to believe, but it’s not true. It’s not our high dollar duds and fancy footwear that impresses God. What’s in our heart is what brings us into God’s presence and allows us to focus our attention on Him and worship Him. Flat tires and dead batteries. In our profession it’s easy to get deflated (discouraged) with all the dirtbags, trauma, mistreatment, meanness, and just plain misfortune that we have to deal with on a daily basis. I know, I’ve been there myself a time or three. We can just get to where we don’t seem to have it in us anymore. That’s when we need a friend to help. Okay, since a “parable” is supposed to be a sort of verbal illustration of something, let’s look at it this way: If the mower is a picture of us when we’re feeling all used up, and the mowing job is worship, then the “ranch truck” could be an illustration of Jesus. I brought the mower to the vehicle which had what the mower needed to fulfill its job – air for the tires and electricity for the battery. Jesus can touch our lives where we’re hurting and give us healing and encouragement in (Continued on page 6)
Number of Dallas Police Officers at Lowest Level in about a Decade DALLAS (AP) — The number of police officers serving Dallas has fallen to its lowest level in about a decade while the department also is falling short of its goal for new hires, the interim police chief told a city council committee. Chief David Pughes said last month that the number of officers on the force is 3,077. That's down from nearly 3,700 officers some six years ago. He said the department will be shortstaffed as the summer approaches and crime generally increases. Concerns over the failing Dallas Police and Fire Pension System have led many officers to retire at a rate faster than the department can hire and train new ones, The Dallas Morning News reports. Dallas so far this year has lost 244 officers, many of whom had more than 20 years of experience. Officials believe another 120 will leave by the end of September. Pughes said he's considering hiring many of those retired officers to temporarily bolster patrol numbers.
"I'm actually excited about the possibility of bringing retirees back in whatever capacity they can work," Pughes said. The move could be a short-term remedy in the face of fewer new hires than hoped. The department so far this year has hired just 80 officers and expects to add about 200 by year's end, far below a target of around 450, the newspaper reported. The hiring rate is surprising in light of a surge of applications in the wake of the July sniper shootings during a downtown protest where five officers were killed and nine others wounded. The department said job applications more than quadrupled in the two weeks following the shootings. David Brown, who was police chief before retiring in October, at the time had urged those protesting police actions to help change law enforcement from within by applying to become a cop. Despite the rise in applications, a rigorous hiring and training process results in many applicants being dropped from consideration.
The BLUES Newspaper
The BLUES Newspaper
FBI report finds officers ‘de-policing’ as anti-cop hostility becomes ‘new norm’ An unclassified FBI study on last year’s cop-killing spree found officers are “de-policing” amid concerns that antipolice defiance fueled in part by movements like Black Lives Matter has become the “new norm.” “Departments — and individual officers — have increasingly made the decision to stop engaging in proactive policing,” said the report by the FBI Office of Partner Engagement obtained by The Washington Times. The report, “Assailant Study — Mindsets and Behaviors,” said that the socialjustice movement sparked by the 2014 death of 18-year-old Michael Brown at the hands of an officer in Ferguson, Missouri, “made it socially acceptable to challenge and discredit the actions of law enforcement.” FBI spokesman Matthew Bertron said the study was written in April. “Nearly every police official interviewed agreed that for the first time, law enforcement not only felt that their national political leaders [publicly] stood against them, but also that the politicians’ words and actions signified that disrespect to law enforcement was acceptable in the
aftermath of the Brown shooting,” the study said. As a result, “Law enforcement officials believe that defiance and hostility displayed by assailants toward law enforcement appears to be the new norm.” The report examined 50 of the 53 incidents last year in which officers were killed in the line of duty, excluding the three cases that involved minors or perpetrators who remain unknown. Most of the assailants who used deadly force against officers did so in an effort to avoid being taken into custody, but 28 percent were motivated by hatred of police and a desire to “kill law enforcement,” in some cases fueled by social and political movements. “The assailants inspired by social and/ or political reasons believed that attacking police officers was their way to ‘get justice’ for those who had been, in their view, unjustly killed by law enforcement,” the study said. The perpetrators said their animus toward police was based on their own experiences as well as “what they heard and read in the media about other incidents involving law enforcement shootings.”
CHAPLAIN (Continued from page 4)
our inner selves which will allow us to continue living and to have a personal relationship with Him. And once we’re “back in the saddle,” spending time with Him in a personal, meaningful way, He’ll put more “gas in our tanks” and keep us going. As I said, there are times we need a friend to help us get the mower and the vehicle in close proximity. If you’re a Christian and see someone you know who looks to have some “flat tires,” take a chance and reach out to them. Sometimes all it takes is a little prayer to “jump off the battery” and get them started on their way to a closer relationship with God. If you’re the one who’s got “flat tires” and/
or a “dead battery,” take a chance and reach out to a Christian you know and ask them to pray with you that God would make a difference in your life. Thanks for spending some time with me again. Blessings to you and yours. Chaplain Bill firstname.lastname@example.org
Those charged in the July 2016 shootings of police in Dallas and Baton Rouge “said they were influenced by the Black Lives Matter movement, and their belief that law enforcement was targeting black males,” the report said. Five officers were killed in the Dallas ambush, which coincided with a protest against police shootings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota, while three officers died in the Baton Rouge massacre. Last year was particularly deadly for police: Sixty-four were shot and killed in the line of duty, a 56 percent increase from 2015. Of those, 21 were killed in ambushstyle attacks, “the highest total in more than two decades,” according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. While racial tension has been the focus of deadly police encounters since the Brown shooting, nearly half of the assailants who killed officers in 2016 — 48 percent — were white, the FBI study found. Of the rest, 36 percent were black, 14 percent were Hispanic, and 2 percent were Native Alaskan. Nearly all — 86 percent — had criminal histories; 60 percent had used drugs, and 32 percent were under the
influence at the time of the attack. In addition, 26 percent were under active warrants, and 24 percent had known gang affiliations. All were men. The report also found that the trend toward drug decriminalization and reduced sentencing had emboldened perpetrators, making them believe that “consequences no longer exist for criminal acts, especially drug offenses.” “Across the country, law enforcement link the decriminalization of drugs to the increase in violent attacks on law enforcement,” said the study. Such factors have “had the effect of ‘de -policing’ in law enforcement agencies across the country, which assailants have exploited.” The report cited an example in which an officer was slammed to the ground and beaten but refused to shoot the assailant “for fear of community backlash.” “The officer informed the superintendent that the officer chose not to shoot because the officer didn’t want his/her ‘family or department to have to go through the scrutiny the next day on the national news,’” the study said. Washington Times
The BLUES Newspaper
RIVER OAKS CHRYSLER JEEP DODGE RAM Call Alan Helfman for a SPECIAL DEAL 713-524-3801 Kirby at Southwest Freeway
Police chief says new law that bans sanctuary cities in Texas will 'instill a lot of fear' SAN ANTONIO - Less than one day after Governor Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 4 into law, banning sanctuary cities in Texas, Chief William McManus said the new law will result is less public trust in the police force. Speaking to reporters, McManus said a line in the SAPD manual which restricts officers from asking a person their immigration status will 'come off the books,' meaning the line will be removed so SAPD can comply with the new law. McManus added nothing else would change. However, he seemed to caution the law would discourage members of the community from working with officers investigating crime. "My overall concern is the effect, the impact, that it will have on the community. Even though the bill doesn't stipulate that we are required to ask, just the mere fact that an officer out there may ask or folks understand that the officers can ask, might
ask, then I think that instills a lot of fear in the community. Which is what we didn't want to happen to begin with," he said. When asked what 'marching orders' he would give SAPD officers, McManus replied, "Marching orders will be silent. There will be no marching orders." He seemed unsure whether officers would begin asking people about their immigration status, adding it wasn't part of the department's normal procedure in the past before the line prohibiting it was added to the manual. "We have enough to do on our own without worrying about people's immigration status," he added. "I don't think we're going to see the feds helping us with our calls for service. They're not going to be jumping in cars with police officers assisting because we have another officer tied up in an immigration matter. So we'll just have to wait and see."
The council took no action. “Our state has enacted a racist and hate -filled law that will tear families apart and make our community less safe,” Council Member Delia Garza said. “This is unacceptable and I am thankful for so many standing here today to fight for our community.”
(Continued from page 3)
Casar’s resolution to sue the state should pass easily. It appeared that only three members of the 11-person City Council were not at the rally, which led to the city publicly posting the rally as a city meeting because a quorum was present.
Austin American Statesman
WHITE DALLAS OFFICERS DON'T
DISPROPORTIONATELY USE FORCE AGAINST MINORITIES, STUDY SAYS White Dallas police officers do not disproportionately use force against minorities, contrary to common public perceptions that they target people based on race, a new study has found. When circumstances such as drug or alcohol use and the officer's tenure are taken into account, differences in use of force between races fade away, according to peer-reviewed findings published in the American Journal of Public Health last month. Researchers from the University of Texas at Dallas, University of Texas School of Public Health and the University of South Florida analyzed 5,630 use-offorce reports filed by Dallas officers in 2014 and 2015 to see whether the data supports a common view that white officers target minorities. "We now know that the differences that a lot of people think exist because of these horrific events that we see on TV, video footage, that's not the norm," said Alex Piquero, a UT-Dallas criminology professor who was on the research team. Dallas police responded to about 1.2 million calls in 2014 and 2015. The majority of those calls didn't result in use of force. Officers are required to submit reports each time they use force, which includes making verbal commands, threatening to use a Taser and firing a weapon. The researchers sorted the use-of-force options into four categories: Verbal direction: Includes making verbal commands and taking a combat stance. Soft-empty hand control: Includes holding a suspect down, using pressure point techniques and showing or threatening to use a Taser. Hard-empty hand control: Includes displaying a weapon at someone or locking their joints for compliance. Intermediate weapon use: Includes use of pepper spray or Taser. Last year, the Dallas department was about 50 percent white, 26 percent black and 21 percent Hispanic. In 2014 and 2015, white officers reported using force more often than their peers. About 48 percent of the reports were about white officers using force against someone who wasn't white. In
comparison, only 3 percent of black officers used force against someone who is white, according to the study. But Piquero said the use-of-force data shows there weren't many racial or ethnic differences for officers' use of force on civilians once the context of the cases was taken into account, such as the types of calls officers responded to. About 48 percent of the people whom officers used force against were under the influence of drugs or alcohol, for example. Researchers analyzed data broken down by the races of the officers, their tenure and the number of times they reported using force. They also looked at the race and gender of the person the officer used force on. There are some limitations to the statistics, however. They don't specify all of the factors that contribute to use-offorce incidents, such as the physical fitness of those involved, the crime rate in the area or whether it was dark or light out. The data also doesn't explore whether the use of force was necessary under the circumstances. The researchers did not include lethal force in their analysis. That's because the lethal force instances were a "rare occurrence," they wrote in their paper. In the study, researchers complimented the Police Department for its efforts in recent years to be more accountable and build trust with the public. "I think we're doing better than we give ourselves credit for," said Jennifer Reingle Gonzalez, one of the researchers in the study. "At least here, in this one place, we've made a lot of progress." Dallas police shot 23 people in 2012. That year, a riot almost erupted in Dallas' Dixon Circle after police fatally shot a fleeing black man. The Police Department promised to win back Dixon's trust. It started those efforts by making patrol officers, who answer the bulk of calls from residents, go through reality-based training at least once a year. Dallas police were involved in 20 shootings, 10 of which were fatal, in 2014. In 2015, they were involved in 11 shootings, five of them fatal. Last summer, the depart(Continued on page 13)
The BLUES Newspaper
Advertising space in this section is offered at a discount and strictly limited to bona fide law enforcement agencies.
Brownwood Police Department NOW HIRING Civil Service Examination June 22, 2017 (TCOLE Certified Officers Only) Application Deadline Thursday, June 15, 2017 at 5:00 PM
Starting salary $43,956 up to $48,588 based on years of experience $5,000 Sign On Incentive Certificate Pay and Assignment Pay 15 paid vacation days per year 15 paid sick leave days per year
10 days holiday per year 20 Yr. TMRS Retirement 7% with 2:1 match Group medical, dental, vision and basic life insurance paid for employee Department provides equipment, uniforms and dry cleaning BPD is a Recognized Agency by the Texas Police Chiefs Association
The Brownwood Police Department is looking for TCOLE Certified Officers to join our team under new leadership! We enjoy overwhelming community support coupled with a great quality of life, great schools and a low cost of living. Learn more and register for the test online at http://www.brownwoodtexas.gov/223/Job-Opportunities or call 325-646-5775, ext. 1178. Visit our website at http://www.brownwoodtexas.gov/243/Police-Department to learn more about our Department.
POLICE REFORM BILLS STUCK IN LIMBO AS TEXAS LEGISLATURE WINDS DOWN A bill that would have let a North Texas family more easily obtain police records detailing their son’s final hours is facing an uphill battle in the frantic waning weeks of the legislative session. Thanks to a 1997 statute, law enforcement agencies currently don’t have to share their investigative records if a suspect isn’t convicted. House Bill 3234 would compel police to release the documents if a suspect died before being convicted or if the suspect gave his consent to their release. The need for such a change was highlighted in an April American-Statesman investigation into the death of Graham Dyer. The 18-year-old died in August 2013 while in the custody of Mesquite police, who said he’d sustained fatal selfinflicted head injuries in the backseat of a police cruiser. Dyer, who was having a bad reaction to LSD, was being taken to
jail after a confrontation in which he allegedly bit an officer trying to handcuff him. When his parents, Kathy and Robert Dyer, asked to see the records documenting the officers’ contact with their son, however, the Mesquite Police Department refused. It said that because their son had died before the charges of assaulting a police officer had been proven, it didn’t have to release the records. After two years, the couple managed to find a backdoor way to obtain police videos of Graham from the FBI. The disturbing images the Police Department had refused to release showed a Mesquite officer shocking the teenager in the testicles. Another officer can be heard threatening to kill Graham. The videos also showed Graham to be barely responsive when he was delivered to the jail – a different picture than that initially painted by police, who’d said he still needed to be restrained.
Thanks to the videos, the Dyers were able to revive a federal lawsuit against Mesquite. It remains pending. Less than a week after the Statesman’s story was published, the Dallas County district attorney’s office said it was opening a full review of Graham Dyer’s death in police custody. Although HB 3234, sponsored by state Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, was scheduled for a hearing Thursday in the House, supporters noted that Thursday is the deadline for members to vote on pending bills, which have stacked up as the session draws to a close. If not approved then, the measures face extinction unless they are added as an amendment to another bill. The bill is among a handful of other police reform bills that are either stuck in limbo or headed for victory as the 85th Texas Legislature races toward the finish line.
Bland Act stalls The most ambitious police reform bill – the wide-ranging Sandra Bland Act filed by Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston – never made it past a House committee, though a scaled-back version of the bill could soon come up for a vote on the Senate floor. Bland, a 28-year-old black woman from Illinois, was arrested in Prairie View in 2015 after then-Department of Public Safety trooper Brian Encina stopped Bland for failing to signal a turn. The two began arguing, and the incident quickly escalated. Bland was handcuffed and taken to jail. Three days later, Bland — who had a history of mental illness — committed suicide in the Waller County Jail. Her death sparked protests across the country and added to the national outrage over (Continued on page 14)
The BLUES Newspaper
The BLUES Newspaper
Texas Police News Briefs From you -
- About you
The Blues newspaper is always looking for reader submissions, law enforcement events, and department press releases! Please send any news you’d like us to share to email@example.com and we’ll include it for all to see!
Texas A&M University Police Recognizes Employees at Annual Awards Ceremony The Texas A&M University Police Department held its annual awards ceremony to recognize exemplary employee accomplishments and contributions for the past year. Chief of Police J. Michael Ragan announced the following award winners and joined with other members of the UPD staff in congratulating them: Police Officer of the Year Detective Todd Van Dresar Security Officer of the Year Advanced Security Officer John High Support Staff Employee of the Year Administrative Coordinator Bob Tountas Police Commendation Award Police Officer II Phillip Shaw Life Saving Awards Lieutenant Bobby Richardson Police Officer III Garret Hudson Police Officer III James Stultz Police Officer II Mark Kozack
Texas A&M Police Annual Awards Ceremony and Recognition of Promotions The Texas A&M University Police Department recognized exemplary employee accomplishments and recent promotions today at the Annual Awards Ceremony held at the Police Department. Sergeant Chad Houston promoted to Lieutenant The University Police Department is pleased to announce that Sergeant Chad Houston has been promoted to the rank of
Lieutenant within the Field Operations Division. Chad will be responsible for supervising the Special Operations and Events Division. Chad has been employed with the department for 19 years. He previously served as the Clery Compliance Sergeant in the department’s Support Services Division. Chad is a native of San Angelo, Texas. He earned a bachelor’s of science degree in Agriculture Business from Texas A&M University in 2000. Sergeant Bobby Richardson promoted to Lieutenant The University Police Department is pleased to announce that Sergeant Bobby Richardson has been promoted to the rank of Lieutenant within the Field Operations Division. Bobby will be responsible for supervising the Community Services Division. Bobby has been employed with the department for 22 years. He is a 2010 recipient of the Texas A&M University Police Department’s Officer of the Year Award. In 2004, he was recognized by Mothers Against Drunk Driving for his outstanding efforts in working driving while intoxicated cases. Bobby previously served as the Training Coordinator in the department’s Support Services Division. Bobby is a native of Henderson, Texas. He has earned a bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University and master’s degrees from Sam Houston State University and Texas A&M University. Officer Jennifer Enloe promoted to Sergeant The University Police Department is pleased to announce that Police Officer IV Jennifer Enloe has been promoted to the rank of Sergeant within the Field Operations Division. Jennifer will be responsible for supervising police officers assigned to the patrol division. Jennifer has been employed with the department for 8 years. In 2010, she was recognized by Mothers Against Drunk
Driving for her outstanding efforts in working driving while intoxicated cases. Also in 2010, she received the department’s Life Saving Award. Jennifer previously served as a Field Training Officer in the department’s Field Operations Division. Jennifer is a native of Cleveland, Texas. She earned a bachelor’s of arts degree in Criminal Justice from Sam Houston State University in 2006. Officer Joseph Rios promoted to Sergeant The University Police Department is pleased to announce that Police Officer IV Joseph Rios has been promoted to the rank of Sergeant within the Field Operations Division. Joseph will be responsible for supervising police officers assigned to the patrol division. Joseph has been employed with the department for 10 years. He is a 2014 recipient of the Texas A&M University Police Department’s Officer of the Year Award. In 2015, he received a citizen commendation from the Sons of the American Revolution. Joseph previously served as a Field Training Officer in the department’s Field Operations Division.
LPPD Chief Adcox receives Hobby Leadership Award The La Porte Police Department is pleased to announce that, on May 2nd, 2017 Chief Kenith Adcox was presented the Hobby Leadership Award, given by the University of Houston’s Hobby School of Public Affairs. Chief Adcox, a Certified Public Manager Program Alumni, was awarded for distinguishing himself in his profession, and demonstrating strong leadership skills within the La Porte Police Department. Chief Adcox was recognized for exemplifying the Certified Public Manager Program’s professional standards, including
the use of best practices and management ethics. Most importantly he was acknowledged for his commitment to bettering the lives of others through public service.
LPPD celebrates the first Citizen’s Police Academy graduation of 2017 On April 18th, 2017 the La Porte Police Department was pleased to announce the graduation of another Citizens Police Academy (CPA). Starting the year off right with a January – April session, the agency enjoyed the privilege of hosting a reception for former participants as they celebrated their new-found success with family, friends, and their local police department. Members of the class included: John Guyon, Greg Pavelko, Julia Martin, Garry Ritter, Larry Johnson, Bo Garces, Vanessa Pavelko, Roman Avila, Tori nelson, Celeste Read, Anahi Najera, and Wyatt Smith. Each of the graduates was presented with an official diploma recognizing their dedication and accomplishments over the last 13 weeks. Mayor Rigby, Council Woman Kaminski and Chief Adcox were on hand to personally congratulate the graduates. The ultimate mission and primary focus of the CPA is to bring the Police Department and the community closer together by educating one another. The Department believes that the goal of establishing a safer community can best be achieved if the police and the community positively connect with one another. In short, the La Porte Citizen Police Academy is a community awareness program geared toward a partnership between the police department and the citizens they serve.
The BLUES Newspaper
Report: Texas falling short on police safety during mental health crises When Bell County Constable Thomas Prado neared the railroad tracks in the Texas town of Little River-Academy on June 19, 2014, he could see his friend’s patrol car sitting in the driveway. His friend’s body was sprawled across the porch just feet away, blood pouring from a gunshot wound to his head. “I could see his feet sticking out,” Prado said. “Then I saw that man hovering above him.” That man standing on the porch was David Risner. He had just opened fire on the small-town police chief, Lee Dixon. “He murdered my friend,” Prado said. “Cold-blooded, like a dog, murdered him. Shot him at point blank range.” Minutes earlier, Prado was racing down a rural highway to provide backup for Dixon, who had just pulled up to Risner’s house over reports of a road rage incident. Risner and Dixon argued on the porch. Risner retreated inside the house and fetched his pump-action shotgun. Dixon screamed his final words, captured on his dash camera microphone: “Show me your hands. Show me!” “We were dealing with the devil,” Prado said. “That man was pure evil.” Risner’s defense team made a different case in court, revealing a long history of mental illness they argued might have triggered his crime. Mental health and police killings Between January 2000 and May 2017, 79 peace officers in Texas have been shot and killed in the line of duty. For this project, “Fallen,” KXAN researched the background of each killer to find common themes across those cases. Many of the killers had histories of crime, violence and drug abuse. About a third of the killers had a history of mental illness, according to media, court and police records. This investigation involved a 10-month analysis of court and police records, medical histories, media reports and dash and body camera footage, much of it obtained under the Texas Public Information Act. The research revealed shortfalls in police protection statewide: a need for im-
proved mental health training for officers and better communication between law enforcement agencies about potentially violent individuals with mental health issues. History of mental illness For nearly 20 years, Risner was a police officer himself. Like Dixon, he was a pillar in his community. He served in a variety of posts in East Texas, even running for Van Zandt County sheriff in 1996, before moving to Little River-Academy. “He got all sorts of awards for being an excellent officer,” said Russell Hunt, Risner’s defense attorney. “He was active in community organizations and a local church.” But Risner changed after serving as a contractor in Iraq in 2005, Hunt said. While training police officers there, his team’s compound was bombed. After returning to the U.S., doctors eventually discovered Risner had a traumatic brain injury and diagnosed him with posttraumatic stress disorder. In nearly 20 percent of the cases examined by KXAN, the killers who had a mental illness also previously served in law enforcement, the military or both. Risner was ultimately charged with capital murder of a police officer, making him eligible for the death penalty. At trial, his defense team pointed to brain scans that they said showed brain injuries they believed were a key part of his violent reaction toward Dixon. “There are some areas [of Risner’s brain] that are really compromised, especially when it is related to aggression or violence,” said John Fabian, a forensic psychologist who testified about the scans in court. “He was delusional, angry and irritable, and would be set off immediately by something that would have been a benign or insignificant trigger. He snapped.” Mental health training The state of Texas offers an optional 40-hour course to become a certified mental health officer. The curriculum stresses de-escalation techniques during crisis situations and teaches officers when to call for assistance from a mental health profes-
sional and how to gauge the best outcome for a person who may have a mental illness. Texas has more than 77,000 licensed peace officers, but just 7 percent have that training. About a quarter of the Texas officers shot and killed by someone with a mental illness since 2000 had that training, and Dixon was not one of them. Texas already requires officers to undergo 16 hours of crisis intervention training. But during the current legislative session, lawmakers introduced legislation to require all future law enforcement cadets to take the full 40-hour course. As the session nears its end, that bill – dubbed the Sandra Bland Act after the 28-year-old woman who was found dead in the Waller County jail days after being arrested during a routine traffic stop – passed the Senate and is pending in the House. “I think if everyone is trained, then they go into [a situation where] they understand what they might be confronting,” said state Rep. Garnet Coleman, DHouston, who is among those pushing the mental health-related legislation. “There are certain tools that we can use to keep everyone safe and also have a better dialogue between the public and the police.” Prior to the session, an interim panel of lawmakers — the House Select Committee on Mental Health — heard testimony from a variety of police organizations about training. “The angle we took on the committee was, how do we ensure that we are not just throwing our law enforcement into a scenario that is potentially very dangerous without the proper training?” said the committee’s vice chair, Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso. “But any training is only as good as the last time it was refreshed.” Many law enforcement leaders agree. Limestone County Sheriff Dennis Wilson, who serves as president of the Sheriffs’ Association of Texas, said he advocates continuous training over the course of an officer’s career. “In the academy, the young cadets ... across our nation want to get out on the streets, and mental health is not a popular
subject for them,” Wilson said. “The training has to be ongoing and updated and kept fresh because there’s always new techniques out there that need to be implemented in the field.” Crisis intervention Some police agencies, like the Austin Police Department, already require more mental health training for their cadets than the state mandates. APD includes 40 hours in its academy. “Crisis intervention training is not just to keep the consumer safe and the community,” said Special Police Officer James Turner, who helps organize APD’s training. “It’s also an officer safety course.” To best respond to mental health calls in the field, APD partners with a handful of community groups, such as Integral Care, a local mental health authority. “Austin patrol officers can dispatch mobile crisis teams through their radios and request that a mobile crisis specialist, a licensed clinician, come out on scene,” said Integral Care’s Laura Wilson-Slocum. “That could involve the person staying in the community and the mobile crisis teams following up in 90 days.” She said it can also result in voluntary admission to a hospital, placing a person under emergency detention or, in extreme circumstances, jail. But Turner emphasized that unless a crime is committed, jail should not be an automatic outcome. “The one thing we preach to our cadets and officers every day is to show compassion in these moments because you never know when you’re going to be trying to get someone help who is somebody’s brother, somebody’s sister,” said Turner. “That could be our loved one.” Groups like Mental Health America of Texas are concerned that without partnerships and more training for police, there is the risk of needlessly criminalizing people with mental illness, which already comes with many misconceptions. “People with mental illness are not all potential criminals,” MHA of Texas’ public policy director, Gyl Switzer, said. “We need to understand the role of law enforce(Continued on page 12)
MENTAL HEALTH (Continued from page 11)
ment because they’re not social workers.” But recognizing the signs of mental illness is only part of what could protect police on such calls. Knowing the history of individuals in crisis could be key to survival. Sharing mental health details Chief Dixon "just didn’t know who he was dealing with,” said Prado. “If you don’t know them, how are you supposed to know what their mental capacity is before?” Risner had a criminal past that involved threats against law enforcement. Following his time in Iraq, police arrested Risner multiple times, including one instance that led to a deadly conduct charge for shooting over an officer’s head. In another instance, Temple police discovered an AK-47 mounted to the inside of the trunk door of Risner’s sedan during a traffic stop. In each instance, police referenced
The BLUES Newspaper Risner’s mental state in some form, court records show. It is unclear if Dixon was aware of the specific details of Risner’s criminal past, even though most of the arrests were in the same county as Little River-Academy. Though Temple sits just 11 miles away, it does not appear Dixon received a Temple police safety alert about Risner, which said he stowed weapons in his car and had “possession of other weapons.” It's possible Dixon never received that information because law enforcement agencies across Texas do not use a comprehensive, statewide, interconnected network to share and quickly access such details. Many local agencies do have the ability to share some data through computer systems, such as Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) or Record Management Systems (RMS). However, those networks do not sync up to the state’s own informationsharing network — the Texas Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (TLETS), which is managed by the Texas Department of Public Safety, according to a DPS spokesperson.
Kevin Lawrence, executive director of the Texas Municipal Police Officers Association, likened TLETS, which is statefunded, to an internal law enforcement internet. Through TLETS, officers can access traffic accident data and criminal histories, among other things, Lawrence said. Departments can also alert one another to specific threats through a teletype, which is like an email. But “you have to have specific information at that moment – intelligence you can pass on. There is no global database to put that information into,” he said. Over 1,700 law enforcement and criminal justice agencies utilize TLETS, according to DPS. Those member agencies can send alerts through TLETS to targeted databases, which can be broadcast regionally or statewide. Mental health information “is carefully guarded,” though, and must rise to the level of a credible threat before details are distributed, a DPS spokesman said. Having such a statewide database capable of simply retaining and sharing the mental health history of people coming
into contact with police could lead to privacy issues, Lawrence said. “We want to respect the rights of individuals. We want to respect their privacy, and we don’t want to stigmatize people,” he said. “Let’s face it: The vast majority of people with mental illness are not violent. They are not a danger.” Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, echoed that sentiment on the sharing of mental health information. Krause introduced a “blue alert” bill this legislative session that would create a statewide alert to help capture people suspected of killing or hurting a law enforcement officer. “There is a fine line between making sure you have the information you need and not overstepping privacy boundaries,” Krause said. “I hope we’re able to take some major strides pretty soon.” But while state leaders wrestle with privacy issues, a company called COPsync has already created such a network. In Texas alone, 550 law enforcement agencies subscribe to the system, according to COPsync officials. The system lets officers communicate (Continued on page 15)
The BLUES Newspaper
Texas’ First Black Female Sheriff Builds Diversity Within a Political Divide
Jefferson County Sheriff Zena Stephens says she’s excited to be the first Black female Sheriff in Texas, but it’s something she’s not too thrilled about. Though she embraces the moniker of being the first, the newly elected sheriff remains hopeful that she won’t be the last. “The fact that I’m the first in 2017 is not a lot to be proud about in our country… really, “ says Stephens. “I am excited that I am the first. I think it’s important because the more people who look like us, who are professionals and can do a good job—it’s great to be that role model.” Prior to being sheriff, Stephens served as the first female Chief of Police at Prairie View A&M University. She’s also one of only two Black fe-
STUDY (Continued from page 7)
ment started offering classes on racism and bias for its leadership and officers. Recruits also go through an academy that is longer and more in-depth than most other departments. Dallas didn't see the type of riots that boiled over in Ferguson, Mo., and Balti-
male Sheriffs in the country. “I hope to see a day where we don’t have to have that conversation – that there are a lot of professionals, whether they’re women or minorities,” says Stephens. “I just want people to go out and do a good job. I don’t want to be the first of anything – I want to be the best!” With almost 30 years of law enforcement experience, Stephens says she’s building a more diverse staff that reflects the communities they serve. “We’ve hired more people from the LGBT community, probably than ever seen before at the sheriff’s department, says the Beaumont native. “We’ve hired more minorities. But all of the individuals have a common thread: They’re professionals. We’re not just hiring them because they’re minorities or because they’re from certain communities.” She adds that residents are responding positively, saying they’re seeing more personnel in sheriff’s department vehicles that actually look like them. A new traffic division has also been created that’ll help officials add more patrols in different parts of the area. When asked about her reaction to Gov. Greg Abbott’s signing into law a bill that allows police to ask during routine stops whether someone is in the country legally, she says her office will follow state law. Jefferson County is located about 80 miles east of Houston near the TexasLouisiana border. Of the county’s nearly 300,000 residents, 34% are Black and nearly 20% are Hispanic. Houston Public Media
more, which police officials and researchers say is because of relatively calm relations between police and the public. "Is our study definitive?" Piquero said. "Absolutely not. We don't have access to every single factor that could influence officer and citizen interactions. But this is the beginning of something else. Hopefully other people can improve upon our work." Dallas Morning News
The Helfman Family of Fine Automobiles SALUTING TEXAS PEACE OFFICERS HELFMAN DODGE CHRYSLER JEEP RAM
HELFMAN RIVER OAKS CHRYSLER JEEP DODGE RAM
Steven Wolf 713-533 -610 0 7720 Kat y Fr wy @ Silbe r Rd. nex t to I KEA *Ask about our low price guarantee!
Jeff Smith 281-240-3673
Alan Helfman 713-524-3801
Helfman FIAT-ALFA ROMEO-MASERATI
TWEAK TO HOUSTON PENSION BILL COULD BUY FIREFIGHTERS' FUND MORE TIME The Texas House gave early approval to a bill that would reform Houston's three problematic pension funds, which have caused financial woes and spurred political battles for years. The 112-28 vote for Senate Bill 2190 came after lawmakers made some key changes to the bill, including a provision that could let the firefighter pension fund bear a smaller burden for shoring up billions in shortfalls. But State Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Canton, who authored the House version of the bill, worried that the Senate may not like the changes. "This is an amendment that could very well derail the bill," Flynn said from the House floor. Meanwhile, firefighters who could benefit from one of the amendments remained cautious after the bill's preliminary vote. "We have to see how the rest of the process unfolds," said David Keller, chair-
man of the Houston firefighter pension fund. SB 2190 would cut some retiree benefit features, increase some employee contributions to funds, and infuse the police and City Hall employee funds with $1 billion, which the city plans to finance through bonds. Firefighters opposed the bill, which still needs a final vote in the House, because it cuts some of their retirement benefits more than they anticipated when their fund is not in nearly as bad of shape as the police and municipal funds. City officials, though, said firefighter benefits were more generous than police and municipal benefits and were too costly to taxpayers. (Update, May 9: The House gave the measure final approval on a 115-29 vote.) State Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston, successfully got his House colleagues to amend the bill so that the firefighter pen(Continued on page 14)
REFORM (Continued from page 8)
police use of force against AfricanAmericans. Last September, the county and the DPS agreed to pay Bland’s family $1.9 million to settle a civil lawsuit. The original House bill written in her name aims to bring sweeping changes to nearly every step of the criminal justice system, such as outlawing searches based purely on driver consent, prohibiting officers from stopping vehicles for a traffic violation as a “pretext” to investigate other crimes, requiring better reporting on racial disparities in traffic stop data, and increasing mental health training for officers and jailers. The House bill also called for prohibiting arrests for fine-only offenses and diverting nonviolent, misdemeanor offenders undergoing a mental health crisis into treatment rather than jail. But during an April hearing before the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee, the bill faced stiff resistance from police groups and was left pending without a vote. A Senate version, authored by Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, and was passed by the Senate Criminal Justice Committee last month. It stripped out a number of elements that met with resistance from police groups and Republican lawmakers, including restrictions on searches and stops and data reporting requirements. The Senate bill keeps provisions that would increase mental health deescalation training for law enforcement officers to 40 hours and implement a statewide training program of general deescalation tactics that would be required for officer promotions. It would also require mental health first aid training for county jailers. Initially opposed to the Sandra Bland Act, the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas is starting to come around, said its executive director, Charley Wilkison, who added he supports additional training for jail staff. “All of those kind of things that would enhance training in county jail, we’re supportive of those things,” Wilkison said. “I don’t want to say today we’re in support of the bill because it has a ways to go.” Choppy water for police reform At least 33 people with histories of mental illness have died after being re-
The BLUES Newspaper
strained by police in Texas over the past decade, according to a first-of-its-kind investigation by the Statesman of incustody deaths. Six of those people wielded weapons; the rest were unarmed, records with the Texas attorney general indicate. The investigation also found nearly 100 people died in custody after being detained for minor legal infractions, mental health calls or no charges at all. In many cases, minor encounters quickly spiraled into fatal confrontations. Coleman said the training provisions of the Senate bill would keep incidents from spiraling out of control. The Senate bill, which would head to the House if passed by the full Senate, also calls on law enforcement agencies to make a “good faith effort” to divert nonviolent, misdemeanor offenders in mental health crises into treatment instead of jail. The Senate version wouldn’t require law enforcement agencies to make fundamental changes in how they collect and report racial profiling data on traffic stops, searches and arrests as originally called for by Coleman. As of press time, Whitmire said he was working to persuade recalcitrant lawmakers to allow it to come for a vote on the Senate floor. He says the heart of the bill is the prevention of jail suicides. “It’s been a challenging process because as introduced the bill was broad,” Whitmire said. “That energized the police community. They got locked in against the original bill.” He said he’s trying to now explain that this has effectively become a mental health best practices bill. But he said that he’s also gotten criticism from reform activists who say the bill is too watered down. “They don’t want to compromise,” he said. Police reform measures proposed chiefly by African-American lawmakers have found choppy waters in both chambers, despite claims by members of the Republican leadership that they were willing to help move bills after the Texas Legislative Black Caucus pressed them in the wake of the police shooting death of unarmed 15 year-old African-American Jordan Edwards in North Texas. A handful of police reform measures appear dead, unable to get out of committee. Among them: • The appointment of a special prosecutor for officer-involved shootings. (Continued on page 15)
Is your department hiring? Running a police career ad in The Blues Police Newspaper is an inexpensive and easy way to get the word out to the most qualified candidates all over the Lone Star state! Ads start at only $75 per month! Simply send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or Call Toll FREE 1-866-45-BLUES for more information
PENSION (Continued from page 13)
sion fund has an opportunity to lower what its members give up in order to help close a large funding gap. For months, city and state leaders have accused the firefighter pension fund of withholding actuarial data that would prove it could shore up its shortfall with fewer cuts to members' benefit features. In the absence of such data, city leaders and state lawmakers put together SB 2190 and a House companion — authored by Flynn — that the firefighters opposed. Keller said the retirement system wants to protect individual members' information and has offered the city data under licensing agreements that included confidentiality provisions. He said he was surprised that became an issue on the House floor considering all firefighter salary information goes through City Hall. "They know what each of us makes," he said. "There’s nothing surprising in our data we hold." Huberty's amendment will give the firefighter fund a deadline to provide the data to the city. It passed 90-42 over the objections of Flynn, who said the firefighter fund had months to help reach a compromise and that such a change could sink the bill when it goes back to the Senate. "At this point it's really too late to change the critical aspects of this bill," Flynn said. When the amendment passed, applause broke out from the House gallery above, where scores of Houston first responders had gathered to watch the vote. "I've presented many bills this session, and I've never said it's too late," Huberty said. Flynn's companion bill was slated to be voted on by the full House on Monday. Instead, Flynn put forward the Senate version, which includes provisions requiring
future employees to be switched to a different kind of retirement system if the current funds’ shortfalls exceed certain thresholds in the future. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and the city’s police and fire chiefs had warned of first responder shortages if legislation overhauling the pension funds didn’t pass this session. Lawmakers supporting SB 2190 said several times that if a bill didn't come from the Legislature, the pension funds would fail. State Rep. Dwayne Bohac, R-Houston, also successfully amended the bill to prevent changes in the bill from affecting current retirees. And state Rep. Mike Schofield, R-Katy, tacked on an amendment that would nullify benefit cuts the pension funds agreed to if Houston voters don't sign off on a plan to infuse the police and municipal retirement funds with $1 billion in pension obligation bonds. Flynn opposed Schofield's amendment, saying it could have unintended consequences. Yet he almost immediately allowed it to be added onto the bill. "I'm going to go ahead and accept it at this time and we'll deal with it later," he said. After the vote, Flynn said it was "good news" that the majority of his House colleagues want to fix the pension systems. But he also wished some of the changes hadn't been made. He called Huberty's amendment a "campaign speech" and again criticized firefighter pension board members. "They’ve refused to negotiate," Flynn said. "They’ve never worked with us in good faith." Keller said Monday that he didn't know whether the firefighter pension board would vote to release the data referenced in the amendment. "We’re still working on that," he said. "I’m just one vote on the board, and the rest of the board will have to have that discussion." Texas Tribune
The BLUES Newspaper
DART POLICE HONOR VICTIMS OF JULY 7 AMBUSH, INCLUDING ONE OF THEIR OWN The Dallas Area Rapid Transit police department has held memorials for fallen officers before, but last month’s ceremony was different. It was the first time the agency added a name of one of their own. DART Officer Brent Thompson was one of five police officers who died last summer after a lone gunman ambushed officers downtown. Dallas police officers Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Patrick Zamarripa and Michael Smith were also honored at the ceremony at the DART police station, as were Texas officers who were killed in the line of duty in the last year. “Today’s observance of this solemn event has a special significance to us," said DART Officer Courtney Brown. "For the first time, the DART Police Department will add a name to those officers who have sacrificed their lives so that others may live,” Ahrens, Krol, Zamarripa and Smith were also honored at a Dallas Police Department ceremony yesterday. A national ceremony commemorating officers slain in the line of duty was held in Washington, D.C., this week. All the ceremonies are part of National Police Memorial Week. Members of Thompson’s family, including his parents, were in attendance as were Dallas Police officers, including Interim Chief David Pughes, officers from other agencies, DART board members and DART President and CEO Gay Thomas. Thompson’s widow, Emily Thompson, was returning from Washington and missed the ceremony. While reading the list of Texas Fallen Officers, DART officer Theresa McClellan became emotional as she read Thompson’s name, badge number and date of death. Dallas District Attorney Faith Johnson
said her “heart was so broken” by the July 7 shooting. “Brent Thompson went out there just to help citizens, just to help save their lives. And for that we say thank you to his family for lending him to us,” she said. “He made the ultimate sacrifice of his job, to give his life.” Johnson, who was a prosecutor before becoming DA, said she's a citizen who relies on law enforcement. “That’s why I pray for them, that’s why I love our police,” she said. “I love our DART officers, I love law enforcement, and, yes, you probably have heard me say in the past, and I say it wherever I go, I support the blue. I support you 110 percent.” Johnson said that although there are some “bad apples,” they don’t reflect the profession as a whole. Tensions between police officers and communities across the country have been at an all-time high in recent years after several officer-involved shootings between white officers and black citizens. Johnson recently charged Balch Springs Police Officer Roy Oliver with murder in the April shooting death of 15-year-old Jordan Edwards. “The reason I have to go after the bad apples is I don’t want them to destroy your good reputation,” she said. “What we do at the DA’s office, we couldn’t do without you.” At the end of the ceremony, DART Police Chief James D. Spiller asked everyone to join him outside where he presented Thompson’s parents with a special tribute: a street at the DART police headquarters named for their son. “This street is, and now will forever be, named Officer Brent Thompson Way,” Spiller said. Dallas Morning News
DON’T FORGET! Text ‘Blues’ to 42828 to get your
FREE digital copy of The Blues Newspaper each month!
MENTAL HEALTH (Continued from page 12)
and share information across jurisdictional lines, including officer notes, traffic warrants and vehicle locators. The system also retains background details on people coming into contact with police — like signs of mental illness. Guadalupe County Constable Michael Skrobarcek uses COPsync on both his phone and his in-car computer. He said such details come to him immediately without having to call dispatch or wait for other data to catch up. “We had a guy the other day who wouldn’t stop for us, and we chased him for about 15 minutes,” Skrobarcek said. “He felt bugs on him and said people were following him, so we entered those specifics into COPsync. Now, anybody else who runs his tag is going to know he’s going to need some mental health help.” The founders of the company were colleagues of Trooper Randall Vetter, who was shot and killed in the line of duty in 2000 by a man attorneys argued showed signs of mental illness. He had previously threatened to kill police officers, but that information was never relayed to Vetter. “Seventeen years ago, how was that information disseminated?” asked Vetter’s widow, Cynthia, who now serves as the spokeswoman for COPsync. “It was sent via fax machine and tacked to a bulletin board — not information that was readily available in a patrol car.” The basic cost of COPsync is about
REFORM (Continued from page 14)
• Changing the standards for which the use of lethal force is acceptable. Another measure would prohibit a peace officer from arresting an offender for most fine-only misdemeanors without a warrant. As of last month, it still hadn’t gotten a vote on the House floor. “Every time a police officer walks out the door, we want that person to return safe and in one piece,” said state Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston. “By the same standard, we want citizens to be treated with respect and to be safe.” Asked if the leadership has taken any action since the press conference, Thompson joined her thumb to her forefinger:
$100 per officer per month. At that amount, outfitting all police officers across the state would cost over $92 million per year. Wilson, with the Sheriffs’ Association of Texas, said he knows of COPsync and believes it is a good system. But it ultimately comes down to funding, especially outside big cities. “We always talk about money, and that money is in short supply when you go to the rural areas,” Wilson said. COPsync officials said former state Rep. Allen Fletcher, R-Tomball, a retired police officer, expressed interest in the system but did not run for re-election last term. Since then, COPsync has not been included in funding decisions. “From the officer’s perspective, I think I would like to know what people in my community might potentially be a threat before they become a threat,” said Hunt. “The problem in our situation is we’ve got an officer from Little River-Academy, a tiny municipality, who probably didn’t have access to those records.” A jury found Risner guilty of Dixon’s murder in 2016. After hearing testimony about Risner’s mental illness and weighing his threat level, jurors were unable to agree on the death penalty. He received an automatic sentence of life in prison with no possibility of parole. “I think David feels bad for Chief Dixon’s wife and family, but part of David’s mental disorder is that he is extremely rigid in his manner of thinking,” Hunt added. “He does truly believe that he was justified in his actions.” Texas Tribune
Zero. “We’ve asked for help from the leadership, and we’re still waiting,” she said. “We need to be able to carry home to our people something that shows they’re being protected.” State Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, said he would like to see the leadership and law enforcement stand shoulder to shoulder with civil rights leaders after events like the shooting death of Jordan Edwards. “It’s about messaging as much as it’s about legislation,” he said. “They wrap themselves in the flag and law enforcement – which they should do – but they have to resolve their messaging when citizens are being killed.” Austin American Statesman
The BLUES Newspaper
TEXAS DEPT IMPLEMENTS RADAR DEVICE TO CATCH CLOSE PASSERS The Houston, Texas Police Department has launched a new enforcement campaign using a C3FT device on their police bicycles to help protect local cyclists. Developed and engineered by the Austin, Texas based Codaxus LLC, the new device will allow cycling officers the ability to make sure vehicles are keeping the minimum three-feet distance when passing a cyclist. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Police Chief Art Acevedo announced the use of the device as part of the city’s campaign to increase protection of cyclists on the road. Enforcement of the 2013 law passed by the City Council called the Safe Passing/ Vulnerable Road User Ordinance should be easier with the new technology. The code requires a minimum threefoot distance between the passing vehicle and cyclist as well as a minimum six-foot distance for trucks passing cyclists. “We will be writing tickets,” Chief Acevedo said to Houston Public Media.
“And hopefully, get people to voluntarily comply with the law.” The penalty for passing too closely will not exceed $500. Mounting directly to the bike’s handlebars, the $1,400 C3FT is designed to detect, capture and displaying the proximity of passing vehicles. “It’s basically a radar…that actually measures the distance between the cyclist and a passing vehicle,” Acevedo said when describing the device, “We’ve worked out all the bugs. It’s ready to go and it’s certified for use in court.” The C3FT uses an ultrasonic detector attached to an adjustable arm in order to measure the passing distances. A buzzer, numerical display and LED lights alert the rider when a passing vehicle reaches the three or six foot distance threshold. The timing of the announcement coincides with a study being conducted by the local Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research, interested in understanding “close calls” for cyclists in Houston by
having volunteers record such experiences. The aim of the study is to further understand the factors that encourage or dis-
courage community members from cycling around the greater Houston area. cyclingweekly.com