Breaking Down That Backlog Of Complaints Against Sheriff's Deputies

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-- 8 were withdrawn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.

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Richard Connelly
Contact: Richard Connelly