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 Feb. 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.
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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.
We haven't gotten our call to HPD media relations returned, but we'll update if we do.