UH Police: Six-Paragraph Report Criticizes Nonexistent Drug Testing, Low Morale

Supervisors of a University of Houston police officer who had cocaine in her system when she was killed in a one-car accident while responding to an emergency call last December knew or should have known of her "fitness for duty issues," according to a consultant's review of the department's management.

The report, dated April 28, was written by former Houston Police Department Sergeant Mark Aguirre, in response to the death of 24-year-old Ann O'Donnell, the first UH officer to die on duty. Aguirre was fired from the department in 2002 after a notorious mass-arrest of 278 people in a Kmart parking lot.

O'Donnell crashed her car into a tree last Christmas Eve while responding to a possible assault or kidnap call.

Aguirre did not name the supervisors in question, but wrote that "it is essential that you close the loop and take appropriate action," which would "generally be done through a final investigation and report.

The report also states that the university's police department suffers from low morale, possibly due to a "top-heavy" structure "with too many higher ranking personnel." The department also lacks policies for drug/alcohol testing and search-and-seizures. (A routine drug-testing policy was "drafted in March and is going through final review" according to an April 15 statement from the university).

The university's Office of General Counsel hired Aguirre to assist in its "assessment of legal implications" in the wake of O'Donnell's death, according to language in the contract cited by UH Spokesman Richard Bonnin. Bonnin would not say how much Aguirre was paid, stating only in an e-mail that the contract capped the cost at $10,000.

The entire report, which Hair Balls obtained through an Open Records Act request, consists of six paragraphs. Bonnin said there is no backup material or anything beyond the six paragraphs.

"The consultant's advice supported our pending plan developed over the previous year that determined that we need to reorganize our safety and security functions," Bonnin explained. "We were in the process of making changes when this event happened. The facts and lessons learned from this event are being incorporated into the reorganizations."

The plan includes adding police and security officers, setting up security kiosks, enhancing the security camera system, "improvements to police dispatcher" and adding perimeter fencing. The plan also calls for the separation of administrative functions from the chief's position.

The university chose Aguirre's private investigations company "because it was judged to have the ability to perform the necessary functions in the timeframe required" and because Aguirre has "a background on issues internal to a police department," Bonnin stated.

He also stated that "a review of personnel actions is ongoing."

Aguirre was fired from HPD and charged with five counts of official oppression after the highly criticized arrests of nearly 300 people in what was supposed to have been a crackdown on drag-racing. All the charges were dismissed and 32 officers were disciplined. Aguirre was ultimately acquitted on all charges.

Then-Houston Police Officers Union President Hans Marticiuc told KPRC at the time that Aguirre had a "reputation as a loose cannon."

Aguirre now runs Find Out Investigations, a.k.a. Mark A. Aguirre Investigations, and the Mark A. Aguirre Process Service Company. Find Out's homepage states that Aguirre retired from HPD, but media reports at the time said he was fired.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Contributor Craig Malisow covers crooks, quacks, animal abusers, elected officials, and other assorted people for the Houston Press.
Contact: Craig Malisow