Breaking Down That Backlog Of Complaints Against Sheriff's Deputies

Keep Houston Press Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Houston and help keep the future of Houston Press free.

Yesterday we told you how Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia was trumpeting a reduction in the backlog of citizen complaints against deputies.

The Sheriff's Office said 255 cases had been closed in 2009, three times the number closed in the previous year.

The HCSO didn't have any information on how those cases were closed, however. But Alan Bernstein, who heads the communications effort in Garcia's office, did some digging and came up with the numbers for us.

It looks like 62 percent of the complaints resolved in 2009 resulted in no action against the accused deputy.

There are many definitions the HCSO uses for what most of us would call "not guilty," so here's the breakdown:

-- 68 cases were "not sustained," which Bernstein says means there was "insufficient evidence to determine" what happened.

-- 18 were "exonerated."

-- 29 were "unfounded," which means "not factual," Bernstein says.

-- 8 were withdrawn

-- 29 were listed as "admin closed"; Bernstein says that means there was no reason to pursue the case, because it was a duplicate of an existing case, or the officer had resigned, or it had somehow else been rendered moot.

In 93 cases, the complaints were "sustained" (55 cases) or "justified" (38 cases). That adds up to 245, not 255; ten cases have been referred to other agencies such as the district attorney's office, Bernstein says.

He did not have information on what discipline any of the cases resulted in.

As for the type of complaints filed in 2009, the biggest category was the catch-all "violation of policy," but there were 54 complaints about "excessive use of force" and 39 for criminal conduct. In addition, there were a dozen automatic use of deadly force investigations.

Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.


Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.