Posts Tagged ‘Texas’

Police/fire pay parity in Houston

December 19, 2018

Houston voters approved a ballot measure in November granting firefighters pay parity with police. As reported here, the city immediately challenged the measure in court, saying it violates state law and will cost $100 million per year, but lost its case, with the district judge ruling that the administration “made those costs clear in the run-up to November’s election, and Houston voters approved the measure by an overwhelming margin.” The city has threatened layoffs beginning January 1, but the firefighters’ union says that’s just a bluff and a scare tactic.


October 21, 2018

This article tells the story of, the free genealogical web site that has been used to identify suspects based on familial DNA in 15 murder and sexual assault cold cases since April, starting with the Golden State Killer. The site was started by a retired businessman looking into his own family tree, with technical help from a transportation engineer. Before April, users were mainly people looking into their own genealogy, including adoptees hoping to identify their biological parents. A recent study concluded that “Within three years, the DNA of nearly every American of Northern European descent — the primary users of the site — will be identifiable through cousins in GEDmatch’s database.”

Armed off-duty

September 17, 2018

This public radio segment discusses the recent fatal shooting in Dallas by an off-duty officer who mistakenly entered the wrong apartment. One topic is the difference in investigative assumptions when the shooter is a police officer as opposed to an ordinary citizen. Another is the common practice of encouraging or even requiring police to be armed while off-duty. One analysis showed that over 500 officers are arrested each year for crimes committed while off-duty, and “where an officer’s arrested for an incident that involves off-duty gun violence, 42 percent of those cases are also alcohol-related offenses.”

Dubious fundraising in Dallas

August 21, 2018

This article reports fundraising activities for fallen officers in and around Dallas since the tragic ambush in July 2016. Two charities associated with a DPD sergeant raised some $3.2 million in two years but only 22% actually went to the officers’ families — most of the money went to telemarketing and for administration, including extra salary for the sergeant. According to experts, well-run charities spend at least 65% of their donations on their stated mission. Besides dubious expenditures, the sergeant’s charities are embroiled in conflicts and lawsuits with family members, neighboring departments, and other fallen-officer organizations.

Arlington’s community policing story

August 21, 2018

Arlington, Texas PD has had a sustained and serious commitment to community policing. This 26-minute video presents their story, including the department’s response to a fatal officer-involved shooting of an unarmed man, the impact of the deadly ambush in nearby Dallas, and ongoing relationship building with youth, schools, and the community at large. A companion COPS Office document to facilitate conversation and discussion is available here.

Mental health services for police

August 8, 2018

This article from Austin, Texas reports increasing use of mental health services by police, particularly through the department’s peer support program. The police chief notes that “This is a career where you can’t unsee things that you have seen” but that traditionally “it’s OK to be injured as long as it’s below the chin. It wasn’t OK to be injured above because that was seen as a weakness.” Heightened public scrutiny is cited as one source of stress and burnout, along with stalled labor negotiations causing financial struggles for more officers. A pending proposal at the state level is to require periodic psychological exams, which are currently mandated only at the stage of initial hiring.

Drones for crash investigation

August 7, 2018

This article reports growing police use of drones for crash investigation. Estimates are that the overhead technology cuts the time needed to document the scene by half or even two-thirds, which saves money, reduces traffic disruption, and puts officers in less danger on the highway. This type of drone usage does not generally arouse the privacy and civil liberty concerns associated with surveillance and has been permitted in some states that have otherwise restrictive legislation.

Houston chief recognized

July 5, 2018

Houston police chief Art Acevedo is among those recognized this year by the Carnegie Corporation in its annual “Great Immigrants” initiative, as reported here. Acevedo’s family came from Cuba when he was 4 years old. He came up through the ranks of the California Highway Patrol and then was police chief in Austin, Texas for 9 years before his Houston appointment in 2016.

Research in the ranks

June 25, 2018

This article reports the recent conference of the American Society of Evidence-Based Policing, which mainly featured current police officers presenting results from their own research. The organization, just a few years old, mirrors similar ones in the UK, Canada, Australia/New Zealand plus initial efforts in India and Mexico. The emphasis is on learning and applying what works, rather than simply relying on “what we’ve always done” or copying the latest popular idea from a neighboring agency.

Where killings go unsolved

June 7, 2018

This article analyzes over 50,000 homicides in U.S. cities, mapping neighborhoods with higher and lower clearance rates. There are variations between cities but also within, with fewer murders solved in low-income minority neighborhoods. Factors seem to include the challenge presented by drug- and gang-related cases, reluctant witnesses, lack of trust in police, and the resources devoted to homicide investigation.