Pay the Police
The timing of "Killer Behind the Badge" [By Steve McVicker, January 12] could not have been more disturbing. In the case of the HPD officer who murdered his two children, however, at least the daily newspapers did not leave out salient facts such as that a neighbor had begged HPD not to hire him for psychological reasons. I see no outcry, however, over the unasked question -- why did they not more carefully examine him to begin with?
It seems to me that there is an inverse correlation between how well trained and paid police officers are and how much of this sort of thing you read about. How often do you read about FBI or Secret Service agents shooting their children or murdering for unrequited love?
You know good and well that Commissioners Court and City Hall can find as much money as they need if it means a junket or buying themselves furniture or funding a study or proposal so one of their friends can get rich off of the taxpayer. You know good and well that they are spending thousands of your dollars to erect multicolored signs so that you can be reminded of all their names every time they dig a hole somewhere. They can find the money to put up new red lights at sites that have had no change in traffic flow in years (except for the identity of some of the traffic). But they can never find the money to pay the police.
If you snuck police salaries into the budget disguised as a study or proposal, it would probably pass without a hitch. Maybe we could disguise their salaries as a ticket collection company, the kind discussed in your Boss Hall article.
George A. Butel
Recently, Sam Nuchia released his new guidelines concerning police chase policy. It sounds a lot like the old policy ["Deadly Pursuit," by Brian Wallstin, March 10, 1994].
All I can say for certain is that I feel sorry for the 11 innocent bystanders who will be killed this year during police chases. Who will these 11 people be? It could be you. It could be me. It could be my wife coming home from work. It could be your kids coming home from school. The police department really doesn't give a hoot who it is. It's a random thing you know. Someone is going to die during the apprehension of some two-bit criminal.
When it happens, as it is sure to, there is not going to be anyone around to say I'm sorry for what happened. But you can be sure the tow trucks and police investigators will be there to clean up the mess as quickly as possible and determine the police department was not at fault.
There is actually a very simple solution to this whole problem. The chief of police should be an elected office instead of an appointed one. In this way, the police department would have to answer to the public for its wayward, out of control policies. If you notice, the top spot in the sheriff's department is an elected position and you don't see very many county sheriffs involved in high speed collisions. You don't see dozens of wrecked police cruisers in the parking lot of the sheriff's department.
This serves to illustrate the basic problem at HPD. They really don't have to answer to the public at all. There are no built-in controls to keep the city police from becoming predatory in nature.
Hang the Juror
I'm writing in response to Tim Fleck's article on "Re-Hanging the Judge" that appeared in the February 9 issue.
Let me preface this by stating that I am not an attorney and have no interest in Judge Salinas' case one way or the other. I am absolutely appalled that Ms. Ryan has displayed such a cavalier attitude with respect to the secrecy requirement of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.
Article 20.02 "Deliberations Secret" states that, "The deliberations of the grand jury shall be secret. Any grand juror or bailiff who divulges anything transpiring before them in the course of their official duties shall be liable to a fine as for contempt of court, not exceeding $500, and to imprisonment not exceeding 30 days."
Inasmuch as she is a lawyer, this former grand juror had better be prepared to get out her checkbook and pack a toothbrush for her stay as a guest of the county. We cannot allow people to make a mockery of our system of justice.
Re-hang the juror
I was quite appalled, after reading your recent article in the Houston Press [News, "Re-Hanging the Judge," by Tim Fleck, February 9], at the outspoken details given for publication by two members of the grand jury.
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I was privileged to be a member of the Harris County Grand Jury several years ago, and recall that each member took an oath that they would not discuss the happenings that occurred during any of the grand jury sessions. Perhaps they no longer swear to keep secret from the public the details of what goes on in the jury room. At least, one member of the grand jury whom you quoted requested anonymity.
I was particularly surprised and offended that a member of the Bar (Mrs. Ryan) would publicly air certain details of what happened in the jury room. Her comment that the grand jury had "the appearance of a kangaroo court" taxes my intelligence when made, by all people, a lawyer. I am sure that Mrs. Ryan is (or should be) well acquainted with the fact that the grand jury is not a court and does not "try" people for any alleged offenses. Their duty is to hear both sides of the presentation and then decide if there is enough evidence for a majority of nine members to recommend an indictment or a no-bill.
Editor's note: Yolanda Villarreal Ryan (no relation to Mr. Ryan, we assume) did not divulge anything of substance that transpired in the grand jury's deliberations. She simply questioned the district attorney's methods and motivation in continuing to target Lupe Salinas. She has every right to do so, since, at least when we last looked, this is still a free country.