Friday, March 2, 2012

Wayne Dolcefino and the Contract Deputy Program

I watched with interest Wayne Dolcefino's stories on the contract deputy program. In this story he goes after the Harris County Sheriff's Department for not patrolling their contracted areas. He uses clips from the movie Fantastic Voyage which makes me wonder did he get permission to use those clips. It wouldn't be the first time Wayne has broken laws to get his story.

This is how the contract deputy program works. Neighborhoods and business districts collect money from their residents/tenants and spend it on their communities. Many of them go to the county and request patrols from either the sheriff's department or the constable of that particular precinct. I'm sure there are politics that come to play here. Some organizations prefer the sheriff's department and some prefer the constable's offices. I've heard stories of both organizations lobbying organizations for the patrol contract but regardless the point of the program is that a deputy spends a certain amount of their time (70%, 80%, or 100%) patrolling that particular area. Some say that taxes already pay for these services. However that is not the case. Most routine patrols do not consists of neighborhoods unless they are considered hot spots or called out there. There aren't enough patrol officers on the streets to cover all these areas. That's why the neighborhoods (business districts and MUDs are included in this term for purposes of this article) pay more for specific patrol. The idea is the same officer in the same neighborhood becomes familiar with the people and events and is better aware of suspicious activity. The program has its critics of course (as does law enforcement in general) claiming it's for affluent neighborhoods only.

This story talks about contract patrols from the sheriff and constable departments. Most people don't know the difference between the two. Both are defined as peace officers by the Texas code of criminal procedure. Both have powers of arrest, both are charged with preserving the peace and both have given their lives in the line of duty. Both positions trace their roots to medieval times. Constables are considered to be the oldest law enforcement in the world. In effect there is no difference (aside from the uniform) between the powers and duties of a sheriff and constable however constables have limited themselves (at least here in Texas) to their precincts even though they have county wide jurisdiction. This has lead to a bit of a rivalry between the two. I've had dealings with both and there are good officers in both as well some pretty worthless ones as well. In this story the focus is the absence of the sheriff deputies in their assigned contracts whereas a lady says she always sees the constables. The comments section shows the general ignorance of people and there is link to a patrol analysis written by a major with the sheriff's office. In it he quotes sections of the CCP and replaces peace officer with 'SO' (sheriff's office) to make it read like the sheriff is the end all-be all in county law enforcement which is disingenuous. One commenter stated that all constables do are "vacation watches for wealthy homes" while sheriff deputies run around 20 to 25 priority calls at once. This is simply not true. I've seen call screens for the sheriff's department and see a lot of contract checks, business checks, parking lot checks, etc. I guess the author of that comment was a sheriff's deputy. The bottom line is that there is not enough law enforcement in all of Harris County to cover all areas. Sheriffs, constables, HPD, and the rest are spread too thin but doing essentially the same job. Most would be in favor of one, large, all encompassing metropolitan police force however that will never happen because too many upper echelons will not give up their power.


Anonymous said...

A bit of a slippery slope when departments are paid to concentrate their attention to one particular area over another. It smacks of favoritism and borders on bribery. Why would departments even allow themselves to go down this road? It's one thing to hire off duty LEOs to patrol a particular neighborhood on their off time, but to do it while on the clock and attempting to secure the whole city while on the taxpayers time, is an ethical quagmire.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry... but I loved the way you tried to explain budget shortfalls as a justification for the Law Enforcement Offices not Enforcing the Law unless given a mercenary fee to do so. Want more police officers patrolling your neighborhoods, along with decreasing juvenile use of drugs?Legalize cannabis, and call for an immediate release of all non-violent drug offenders (with complete pardons and expunged records for simple possession), followed by closure of all the Drug War prisons that stay funded because of bribes, campaign contributions and corrections unions. When the government isn't wasting 40 years and trillions of dollars incarcerating their own citizens over a racist law made to line corporate pockets, maybe they can get back to patrolling the streets against home invasion, rape, and murder.