Harris County Commissioner Adrian Garcia pulls proposal to study constable contract program

Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia proposed a study of the constable's office's efficacy on March 10. (Courtesy Pexels)
Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia proposed a study of the constable's office's efficacy on March 10. (Courtesy Pexels)

Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia proposed a study of the constable's office's efficacy on March 10. (Courtesy Pexels)

A proposed study of the Harris County Constable's Office’s contract deputy program was pulled from the March 10 Commissioners Court agenda after a barrage of criticism from community members and area law-enforcement officials who saw the item as a step toward shutting down the program.

Harris County Commissioner Adrian Garcia originally proposed the item, but he withdrew it in hopes of continuing a conversation about how to analyze the effectiveness of the program that lets neighborhoods pay for additional coverage from the constable’s office.

“There was a point that was made that [constable’s office] employees are worried about their paychecks; they’re worried about their mortgages and things of that nature; I regret that this item and the way that it was communicated has caused that kind of concern,” Garcia said in asking to table the item. “I think the program is serving its purpose, but I am certain that there are ways that it can work better.”

Garcia, who formerly served as Harris County sheriff, was refuted by current Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez during public comment.

“It's part of the community policing DNA in our Harris County law-enforcement community. ... In no way should the contract program ever go away,” Gonzalez said. "It’s a force multiplier for their agencies and for ours as well. We already work collaboratively when it comes to the program. If anything, it could be expanded.”


Several Harris County constables spoke during the meeting, citing positive relationships between their offices and the communities they serve.

One of the aims of Garcia’s study was to evaluate the equity of the constable system and whether constables free up resources for low-income neighborhoods that cannot afford constable deputy contracts or whether they create duplicative services in high-income areas without a broader benefit to the county at large.

Precinct 1 Constable Alan Rosen said his office tried to run a pilot program for a contract deputy to serve in the Houston’s Kashmere Garden’s neighborhood, but the program was discontinued. He said he tries to ensure his office’s resources are deployed equitably.

“We have county-funded slots that go extensively into those neighborhoods that can’t afford it. I make sure of that because of who I am,” Rosen said.

Former Houston police union President Ray Hunt said working with contract deputies in Houston helps relieve the efforts of Houston police officers.

“They’re a tremendous help to us. ... If we don’t have these constables doing these neighborhoods, we’re going to be out of control with crime,” Hunt said.

Over 100 speakers from civic associations, homeowners associations and neighborhood groups signed up to speak on behalf of the constable program and its benefits to specific communities. Chaka Long, a resident of Houston’s Northside, was one of several speakers who spoke to the effectiveness of community-based law enforcement.

“Growing up in the Northside, my first positive interaction with a police officer was with a constable,” Long said. “I’m able to tell my kid that he can trust the police because of our relationship with our neighborhood constable."

Garcia stressed several times that his intention was not to rid the county of its contract program but to better understand how it affects law enforcement efficiency. Part of his proposal was to study ways to combine evidence rooms and data collection between the constable's office and the sheriff’s office. Gonzalez said he was open to looking at these types of efforts but not consolidating any law-enforcement agencies.

A 2018 study from the Kinder Institute of Urban Research looked at the constable program along with other law-enforcement entities across the county, including the Houston Police Department, small city police departments, school districts and other entities. As of 2018, the county had 189 constable contracts and 109 sheriff's deputy contracts, according to the study. Among its recommendations for cost savings were combining the constable and sheriff's deputy programs and requiring neighborhoods to pay the full salary of their contracted deputy.

Currently neighborhoods pay 70% to 100% of a deputy constable’s contract. Those that pay less than 100% do so with the understanding that the constable may spend the remaining percentage of his or her time patrolling or responding to calls outside the neighborhood. Garcia said he wanted to use the study to determine if constables' time was spent in their assigned neighborhood and the county at large in accordance with the contracts' stipulations.

Kyle Shelton, a researcher on the Kinder study, offered to speak with county officials about its findings, which included strong community support for the program but also opportunities to improve efficiency through the consolidation of certain elements of area law-enforcement entities and practices.

“We think our study is a useful starting point, and it’s not a conversation that is limited to the county and the sheriffs and constables. It lays out a set of challenges that are shared among area law-enforcement agencies," he said.


MOST RECENT

Michael Moore faces Diana Martinez Alexander in the Democratic primary runoff for Harris County Precinct 3 Commissioner.
UPDATED: As election day votes come in, Moore holds lead over Martinez Alexander in runoff for Harris County Precinct 3 Commissioner

Michael Moore leads Diana Martinez Alexander with 58.5% of the vote with 46 of 109 precints reporting.

Runoff election results: Wendell Champion clinches Republican U.S. District 18 candidacy with 72% of the vote

Follow election results here for the U.S. House District 18 Republican Primary runoff.

A voter shows up to vote at the Moody Park Community Center on election day in Harris County. (Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper)
HARRIS COUNTY ELECTION UPDATES: All voting centers fully closed, no lines remain as of 9 p.m.

Along with 150,000 ballots cast throughout the two-week early voting process, total voter turnout broke records for primary runoffs in the county.

Penny Morales Shaw (left) and Rep. Anna Eastman (right) are facing off for the third time since November 2019 for the Texas House District 148 representing parts of North Houston and the Heights. (Courtesy photos)
Runoff election results: Penny Morales Shaw showing an edge over Anna Eastman in Texas House District 148 contest

Follow election results for the Texas House District 148 Democratic Primary runoff.

Republican candidates Joe Danna and Paul Day faced each other in a primary runoff for Harris County sheriff July 14. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
ELECTION RESULTS: Joe Danna maintains lead in Republican primary for Harris County sheriff with 93 of 109 voting centers reporting

Two candidates faced each other in the July 14 primary run off for the Republican spot on the November ballot for Harris County sheriff.

New research shows the coronavirus can survive for much longer in the air than previously determined. (Graphic by Justin Howell/Community Impact Newspaper)
UTMB experts say COVID-19 airborne transmission is responsible for rapid spread; virus lasts more than 12 hours in air

Two infectious disease experts from the Bay Area gave an update on the coronavirus and current research efforts July 14.

The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, giving claimants $600 per week, will end July 25. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Federal unemployment payments of $600 per week end July 25

While the added $600 federal unemployment benefits will end, Texans are still eligible for other forms of relief.

Dr. Steven Kelder is a professor in the Department of Epidemiology, Human Genetics, and Environmental Sciences at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health in Austin with a career spanning more than 25 years. (Graphic by Chance Flowers/Community Impact Newspaper)
Disease expert discusses ongoing pandemic and nearing school year

Dr. Steven H. Kelder recently answered several questions for Community Impact Newspaper regarding COVID-19; trends in cases statewide; and important considerations for parents, students and educators as the 2020-21 school year approaches.

Mayor Sylvester Turner said July 13 that he would like to see a two-week stay-home order in Houston. (Courtesy HTV)
Houston coronavirus updates: Mayor Turner seeking two-week shutdown; 1 in 4 tests coming back positive

Mayor Turner made a series of announcements July 13 related to COVID-19 precautions.

Public health officials in Houston and Harris County reported that 2,001 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed July 13, a new single-day record for the county. (Community Impact staff)
Harris County coronavirus count: 2,001 cases, 8 deaths confirmed July 13

Public health officials in Houston and Harris County reported that 2,001 new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed July 13, a new single-day record for the county.