The War Within

Mark Aguirre is an aggressive Houston cop who won civilian support by fighting crime. But the abrasive captain could lose his biggest battle: the one raging over him in HPD itself.

"I think it's counterproductive when they start dinging me for what anyone other than my police department would say is petty," he says. "The petty stuff, we can pay attention to that, but meanwhile Rome is burning, we're not going to address that; that we have officers out here who are taking too much time for service [calls]…We're not going to address supervisors not supervising…[or] that some people are lazy and ought not to be here. What we're going to address is the perception they have of you that you're rude."

The more he talks about it, in fact, the more depressed the usually cheerful Aguirre becomes. "I genuinely love what I do, I can't stress that enough, and it hurts me that some people would not respect that or see that for what it is and use me properly," he says. "Yes, use me. I think that I'm a good ambassador for the police department."

Several days later, he's even more emphatic.

Aguirre says half of HPD is made up of "malingerers."
Deron Neblett
Aguirre says half of HPD is made up of "malingerers."
Community activist Julian Cortinas says residents got only lip service before Aguirre arrived.
Deron Neblett
Community activist Julian Cortinas says residents got only lip service before Aguirre arrived.

"I'm almost gone. I'm gonna finish the year and that will be it," he says. "It's gotten to be too much. I don't see staying in a profession that does not reward excellence. If they're going to mess with you and make it intolerable to do what you have to do, why stay? I'll go to the private sector, where you're rewarded commensurate with your effort.

"I love doing this, but at what health cost to me? I'm the only one rowing the boat here. I've only got one oar, and I'm going around in circles."

Some will be sorry to see him go. "Captain Aguirre, whether he stays in office or whatever road he takes, he's delivered something to this city that will never be forgotten," says Second Ward activist Cortinas.

Others will be more dry-eyed. "There wouldn't be a lot of tears," says one officer. "But I'll believe he's leaving when he actually leaves."

If Aguirre turns in his badge -- and that's a big if for someone who loves being a cop as much as he does -- the ramshackle halls of the South Central Division will be much quieter.

Far less certain is how quiet the streets beyond those walls will be.

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