The Houston Chronicle has returned to a favorite topic with this article about how shootings by law enforcement in Harris County have risen this year. According to reporter James Pinkerton, as of 24 September there have been 44 police shootings in Harris County. This has already surpassed the total number of police shootings for the last two years.
Read the explanations offered by our community.
First, HPOU President Gary Blankinship cites the end of the city’s paid overtime program. He also cites rising unemployment due to the state of the economy as of late. However not everyone who is out of a job is out committing a crime. Police are hearing that excuse from people. However it’s usually from the same people who were out screwing up when the economy was good.
Next we have media-appointed community activist Quanell X. He seems still hung up on Chuck Rosenthal. He also refuses to look at the whole picture, particularly from the perspective of the officer at risk, who doesn’t have the benefit of hindsight. He wants to see more officers charged regardless of the facts.
Next was a shock. Donna Hawkins, spokeswoman for the District Attorney’s Office, blames permissive gun laws! Was she reading a bad script? She was quoted as follows,
If more people have the access and it becomes easier to carry them, there tends to be more shooting and more situations involving police officers.
Remember when Texas first enacted the concealed handgun laws? Many people were screaming that Texas would be the Wild West, and guess what? It didn’t happen! When the legislature changed the gun laws to essentially make carrying a handgun in one’s car legal, that changed nothing. I wonder if anyone at the DA’s office realize that criminals will always carry weapons illegally. Criminals break the law; that’s what they do. The law-abiding citizen, even armed, will not present a threat to a police officer. Does the DA’s office realize it is already illegal for felons, gang members, and illegal immigrants to have guns? Apparently not because of an incident in which a stolen car with six illegal immigrants was stopped. A ski mask, two pistols, and a shotgun were found and the DA’s office only charged one person with a weapon charge and let the rest go! The assistant DA said the shotgun was legal (it would be legal for a non-felon U.S. citizen over the age of 18 to carry but not an illegal immigrant in a stolen car). Maybe if the DA’s office would quit declining cases for ridiculous reasons that could help the police a little bit.
Next comes a Sam Houston State University researcher who comments about the numbers. Out of respect for my alma mater all I’m going to say is do a few ride-a-longs and see what the streets are like instead of looking at numbers and coming up with theories.
Next we hear from JoAnne Musick, President of the Harris County Criminal Defense Lawyers Association. She is a former public-integrity prosecutor (and a very good attorney). As Pinkerton reports, Musick “said she wondered if the shootings are a lingering effect from police confrontations with criminals mixed with the wave of Hurricane Katrina refugees who settled in Houston.” The Katrina people aren’t as numerous as they were in 2006, but some of them are still here and occasionally they still make the news for getting in trouble with the law. Ms. Musick has a better understanding of officer-involved shooting than those currently working at the District Attorney’s office apparently. She also cited the stress of limited backup and single-man patrols. I would agree that limited back up can be stressful. However single-man patrols are the norm around here. Remember this incident where the officer was ambushed? With people like these running around, naturally police are going to be more cautious. Musick quotes the old proverb, perception is reality. When an officer perceives a threat he/she will react accordingly and that reaction will have to be documented and reviewed. One thing people need to understand is that the best way not to elicit a reaction from a police officer is to avoid doing anything threatening, or anything that may be perceived as threatening. Unfortunately, many people feel they can challenge the police without any consequence (and sometimes they are right thanks to the DA’s refusal to prosecute many cases of officers being assaulted).
The article concludes with the HPOU President noting that many people shot are under the influence of some substance and/or mentally ill. Sadly, this is true to an extent. People under the influence are emboldened to act out against their families and the police, sometimes presenting a danger to themselves and others. The police have to deal with them. However, it is apparently surprising to some in the mental-health community and the media that police officers are not willing to lie down and get injured or killed because the intent is not there.
With all the crime reported in the news everyday, perhaps one conclusion is that there are a lot of criminals in the greater Houston area!