Thursday, April 26, 2007


Continuing my ongoing attempts to illustrate that cops are not your best friends.

HPD suspends 2 after 21 guns missing

From the Houston Chronicle:

Two Houston Police Department evidence supervisors were suspended Tuesday after an audit revealed 21 guns were missing from the property room, Chief Harold Hurtt said Wednesday.

The missing guns are not "needed for an impending criminal trial or court proceedings," Hurtt said. But the chief said he's troubled by how so many of them ended up back on the streets. Two of the guns since have surfaced in the hands of two suspects stopped by police in separate incidents — one during a traffic stop and another in a narcotics case.

R.N. Cobb, who oversaw the gun property room, and A.G. Baquet both were suspended with pay at the end of their shifts Tuesday, pending the outcome of an internal affairs investigation, Hurtt said. The men, both long-term civilian employees with HPD, have not been charged with crimes.


"The problem with the Houston Police Department and with the Department of Public Safety is they have to hire employees out of the human race. You are going to get some good ones, and you get some bad ones," Rosenthal said. "I don't know of any way a person can be screened to be sure they are not going to be a criminal."

More here.

2 Hollywood, Fla.. cops plead guilty

From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:

Two former police officers arrested in an FBI corruption sting pleaded guilty Wednesday to drug conspiracy charges.

Kevin Companion, 41, Stephen Harrison, 46, and two other officers in the Fort Lauderdale suburb of Hollywood were charged with conspiracy to possess and distribute heroin. The other two have pleaded not guilty.

More here.

So, the top story deals with civilian employees, rather than actual cops, but to me it's the same difference: it's all about the organization, and the culture that permeates it. That is, these missing guns take place in an overall context that includes the second story, about cops dealing drugs, and countless other incidents of police corruption and abuse.

Harris County DA Chuck Rosenthal dismisses the gravity of these possible black market gun sales from inside the HPD by chalking it up to human nature, but that's what the authorities always say when the police get into trouble. I mean, they've got a point. There are millions of cops out there, and by virtue of numbers alone it's very likely that some bad guys are going to make it through whatever screening processes are in place and end up with badges.

But to leave the discussion there is downright irresponsible. There definitely exists a police culture, steeped in authoritarianism and us-versus-them attitudes, and drunk on power and self-righteousness. Sure, there are bad apples out there, but it's pretty clear that the way that police think, from coast to coast, does nothing but egg those bad cops on. As Rosenthal asserts, we can't screen out all the bad apples. We can, however, change organizational cultures. And my bet is that such change would go a long way toward reducing the kind of bad cop stories we see virtually everyday in every newspaper.