By Chris Lane
By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
Which would you rather do — patrol the streets of Baghdad, the mountains of Afghanistan or Fondren Southwest?
If the recruiting efforts of the Houston police department are any indication, people would rather fight in a war than answer calls at Bellfort and Gessner.
An abnormally high retirement rate has forced HPD into an intense recruitment drive seeking 900 new cops in the next three years. Recruiters are finding, however, that it's tougher than usual to get applicants.
"It's a challenge to hire people now," says HPD assistant chief George Buenik, who's in charge of recruiting. "As long as there's an ongoing war...our pool is going to the military."
Whoa. We thought the armed forces were having a hard time themselves attracting applicants.
They are, of course. And that's what's making it difficult for HPD. The Army and Marines are so frantic to keep their pipeline full that they're offering big bonuses to people who enlist or re-up.
Usually, HPD gets a good portion of its new cops from people who've done a stint in the military and now want to head out to private life. Now, the money for staying in is sometimes too good to pass up.
Plus, Buenik says, the department has increased its standards, now requiring 60 hours of college credit for applicants without military or law-enforcement experience. Army recruiters, meanwhile, are finding every loophole they can to get people accepted. (Harris County led the nation in Army recruits last year, by the way.)
HPD has held hiring fairs; they'll be recruiting at Rockets and Aeros games; they're touting the low cost of living here.
If only they could brag on the quality of life here versus the Iron Triangle, they might get somewhere, we guess.
Not Free at Last
Former Constable Perry Wooten — the Cal Ripken of staying free pending appeals — is finally going behind bars.
Five years — five years — after he was convicted and sentenced (to, coincidentally enough, a five-year prison term) for theft by a public servant, Wooten has finally reached the end of the road. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected his case January 14, leaving him nowhere to go but TDCJ.
"He shattered all existing records I know about for staying out on bond," says his lawyer, Brian Wice, who has handled more than 300 appeals in his career. "Most people are out 18 months, maybe two years."
The bulk of the delay was caused by the 13th Court of Appeals in Corpus Christi, which received Wooten's case on a transfer and took a very long time to decide what to do with it.
"We weren't complaining," Wice says.
Wooten is stoic about going to prison, he says. The former constable and sheriff's deputy will likely be segregated from the general inmate population.
But he's not quite done with his legal journey: He's already hired a lawyer to try to get his conviction overturned because of the bad job he says his original attorney (not Wice) did at trial.
It Wasn't Me
Pet lovers have been expressing outrage when they stumble across a Web site called ibuystrays.com. The site says it will pay for stray pets, which it then will sell for a higher price to various testing labs.
It's pretty much a hoax, of course — Snopes.com's best guess is that the site was put together by someone seeking to stop the very practice it claims to engage in.
Is that someone, however, connected with a church group in Spring?
An ibuystrays.com visitor with far more Web-sleuthing skills than us tied the site to an address that matches up with Church Leadership Development International, a preacher-training organization in Spring.
CLDI leader Craig Ludrick insists, however, that he's taking no part in selling pets to labs. "We have one pet dog and he's part of the family, and we're not selling him," he says.
Ludrick says the physical address listed for his group, and for the ibuystrays site, is actually a store that has about 50 post-office boxes. Maybe one of them is behind the site, maybe not. (The Internet can be a mysterious place.)
All Ludrick knows is this: He's not looking to buy any strays. So get off his back.
Backing It In, Backing It In
A woman came to a recent City Council meeting to complain about parking in a city lot while serving jury duty. She said she got hit with a ticket because she had backed into the parking space.
A municipal judge laughed and all but threw out the fine, but she — wait, it's illegal to back into a parking space at a city lot? Who knew?
"It is not illegal in most lots to back into a parking space; however, it is...in the parking lot in which [this woman] chose to park her vehicle," says Ted Bowen, spokesman for the City of Houston parking department. "In this particular lot, vehicles had backed into parking spaces in the past, hitting the fence and causing damages."
So a few bad apples spoil it for everyone else. As usual.
Bowen says signs warned drivers about not backing in; he also said a department employee talked to the woman at the council meeting and gave her a six-dollar parking credit, which matched the reduced fine the laughing judge gave her.