By Chris Lane
By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
X Out The Uniform
No badges for Quanell critics
Some working stiffs would love to hear their boss tell them, "Hey, don't worry about those stuffy work clothes." But when that boss is HPD Chief Harold Hurtt, and those stiffs are three officers announcing a lawsuit against two men who publicly accused them of brutality, it smacks of top brass refusing to support the troops on the ground, Houston Police Officers Union President Gary Blankinship tells Hair Balls.
Three HPD officers who were accused of using excessive force on Marvin Driver Jr. — father of NFL wide receiver Donald Driver — have sued Driver and activist Quanell X for making what they say are false allegations about the November incident. (The department's investigation found no evidence of wrongdoing on the officers' part.) They appeared at the February 6 press conference announcing the suit in civilian attire, as per Hurtt's directive to Blankinship.
A piece about the situation in this month's Badge & Gun, HPOU's monthly newsletter, is highly critical of what it called the chief's "disgusting morale-lowering decisions." Harsh words that Blankinship isn't afraid to echo.
"Just another example of the chief not supporting his troops," he tells us. "The one time they want to stand up for being falsely accused in that uniform, the department and city don't back them up. It makes me sick."
Blankinship says Hurtt also sent a text message to the command staff telling them they could go to the conference but instructed them to not wear their uniforms or speak to the media. None of the commanders showed.
"There was one captain that walked in the room for a minute," Blankinship says.
This incident is just one episode of what's been a strained relationship, the union president tells us.
"There are a lot of things that I agree with Chief Hurtt on. But the rank-and-file do not support the chief." (Ouch!) "I've really fought off going after the chief publicly, but I have a rank-and-file that really wants me to go after the chief."
Blankinship did not go on to say that Hurtt is not fit to hand-wash the sweat-drenched undergarments of Houston's finest, but we did get the impression that feelings are running somewhere along those lines. - BLAKE WHITAKER
Harvard v. Texas Law
Don't come back now, ya heah?
A couple of students from Harvard Law School recently got a taste of the Polk County Sheriff's Office and spent some time in the county jail after going out on assignment for their internships at a Houston legal clinic.
The students had driven to Livingston to interview a Polunsky Unit guard at his house, helping attorneys from the Texas Defender Service get favorable statements about Willie Pondexter, an inmate scheduled for execution.
When they got to the property, the guard's mother told them to drive "around the bend" to her son's house, according to the affidavit of student Ariel Rothstein. They spoke to the guard, who said he didn't know Pondexter. He then asked the students to leave, and they did.
A Polk County sheriff's deputy — Terry White — pulled over the students as they were driving back to town and told Rothstein that "driving to a guard's house [is] illegal."
"Deputy White is a large man and was stern with us in the car," Ariel said in her affidavit. "Overall, I found the experience intimidating and frightening."
White took their licenses and had them follow him back to the Polk County Jail, where they were questioned, given warning tickets for criminal trespass and told if they ever returned to the guard's property, "there was a 99 percent chance they would lock us up," according to the affidavit.
The whole incident was part of a lawsuit asking for a stay of execution for Pondexter. (He was executed March 3.)
Rothstein and the other student, Andrew Freeman, returned to Harvard shortly after the run-in with Polk County, and they're both back in law classes, according to a representative from the Texas Defender Service.
"I've spoken to Ariel and she expresses a real sense that she's not welcome in Polk County," she tells Hair Balls. "I think that she'd be scared to go back."
The Polk County Sheriff's Office hasn't returned our calls. - PAUL KNIGHT
Bins get bigger for some
Recently, on recycling day, our little green bin disappeared.
Stolen, we figured, either full (for the cans) or empty (for...an art project?).
The next day, mystery solved: The city replaced it with a new giant bin with wheels, the same size as the regular trash container but painted in a fetching green.
Turns out our neighborhood (Westbury represent!) is one of a handful in the city designated for a pilot project that will be announced formally next week.
We get the big new bins and we get to throw in glass, plastic, paper, whatever, into them with reckless abandon.
"It's called single-stream recycling," Marina Joseph of the city's Solid Waste Department tells us.
About 10,000 homes in Meyerland, Old Sixth Ward, Pine Loch in Clear Lake and other areas will take part in the program. They will be serviced by the same kind of trash trucks with grappling arms that take the regular bins, as opposed to having workers jump off trucks, pick up the small bins and sort out plastic from paper.