Democratic candidates for Harris County sheriff talk mental health, no-cash bail bond policy, officer safety

Three candidates are vying for a place as the Democratic candidate for Harris County sheriff in the March 3 primary election, including incumbent Ed Gonzalez and challengers Jerome Moore and Harry Zamora. (Courtesy Fotolia)
Three candidates are vying for a place as the Democratic candidate for Harris County sheriff in the March 3 primary election, including incumbent Ed Gonzalez and challengers Jerome Moore and Harry Zamora. (Courtesy Fotolia)

Three candidates are vying for a place as the Democratic candidate for Harris County sheriff in the March 3 primary election, including incumbent Ed Gonzalez and challengers Jerome Moore and Harry Zamora. (Courtesy Fotolia)

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Ed Gonzalez* (Courtesy Ed Gonzalez)
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Harry Zamora (Courtesy Harry Zamora)
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Jerome Moore (Courtesy Jerome Moore)

Three candidates are vying for a place as the Democratic candidate for Harris County sheriff in the March 3 primary election, including incumbent Ed Gonzalez and challengers Jerome Moore and Harris Zamora. The winner of the Democratic primary election will face the winner of the Republican primary election in November.

Ed Gonzalez* (D)



Years in district: 50



Websites: www.edgonzalez.com and www.facebook.com/edgonzalezhouston



If elected, I would: continue to be a hands-on sheriff. We have made great strides in my first term as sheriff using research-based approaches that lead to more safety, lower costs, and more just outcomes—but there is more work to be done.



1. How can the Harris County Sheriff's Office better ensure that the mentally ill in need of treatment aren’t being incarcerated?



We’ve launched our Clinician and Officer Remote Evaluation (CORE), using technology to connect deputies to mental health professionals at the scene to find alternatives for individuals in crisis. We’ve also started the first 24-hour diversion desk to make assessments about diverting individuals to mental health treatment rather than jail time.



2. How do you foresee Harris County’s new no-cash bail bond policy affecting countywide crime and law enforcement?



For me, the biggest priority is the safety of our community as we implement the federal court decision. We’ve been proactive in expanding crime suppression programs to reduce crime in our communities. A balance is needed between assisting nonviolent individuals, while proactively limiting serious offenders that terrorize our communities.



3. How can the HCSO further promote officer safety?



We are increasing more scenario-based training and equipping our front-line deputies with better equipment. Moreover, the overall well-being of our personnel is important. We’ve formed our own Wellness Unit and have hired our first agency psychologist to better serve the needs of our workforce.



Jerome Moore (D)



Years lived in district: 46



Website: www.jeromemooreforsheriff.com



If elected, I would: stop or significantly reduce the deaths in the Harris County jail, significantly reduce the violent crimes and senseless killings on the streets of Harris County, and I would bridge the gap between law enforcement and the citizens of the community.



1. How can the HCSO better ensure that the mentally ill in need of treatment aren’t being incarcerated?



I believe that the Harris County Sheriff's Office could better ensure that the mentally ill consumers that are in need of treatment aren't being incarcerated by making sure that each person claiming mental illness is screened by a license[d] professional. I believe mentally ill consumers should receive the help that they need, rather than being incarcerated in the Harris County jail. I believe by placing mental health consumers in jail, the illness will never be corrected.



2. How do you foresee Harris County’s new no-cash bail bond policy affecting countywide crime and law enforcement?



I believe Harris County's new no-cash bail bond policy will affect countywide crime and law enforcement in different ways. I believe every individual deserves a second chance, especially if they are poor or made a bad decision. I don't believe misdemeanor crimes will increase because of this; however, some law enforcement personnel will choose not to enforce certain misdemeanor crimes all together because of this policy.



3. How can the HCSO further promote officer safety?



I believe that the Harris County Sheriff's Office can further promote officer safety by increasing training for deputies and making sure that the Harris County Sheriff's Office has the required personnel to back deputies up on calls for service.



Harry Zamora (D)



Years in district: 40



Website: www.harryzamoraforsheriff.com



If elected, I would: focus on the personnel within the department to ensure we get better new hires. Any successful crime reduction initiative or program is only as successful as those charged with its implementation.



1. How can the HCSO better ensure that the mentally ill in need of treatment aren’t being incarcerated?



Engage social services to proactively involve deputies, families and social services to address their needs before crime is involved. Work closer with prosecutors for alternatives to incarceration.



2. How do you foresee Harris County’s new no-cash bail bond policy affecting countywide crime and law enforcement?



Proactive policing and community service centers should help reduce crime and the need for bail reform. I would form focus groups to seek resolution to the issue.



3. How can the HCSO further promote officer safety?



Better training, more two-man units, community education, intelligence led policing and police tactical teams designed to apprehend fugitives and dangerous felons. Since disturbances contribute significantly to officer injury, train and redesign tactics.



*Indicates incumbent

By Hannah Zedaker

Editor, Spring/Klein & Lake Houston/Humble/Kingwood

Hannah joined Community Impact Newspaper as a reporter in May 2016 after graduating with a degree in journalism from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. In March 2019, she transitioned to editor of the Spring/Klein edition and later became the editor of both the Spring/Klein and Lake Houston/Humble/Kingwood editions in June 2021. Hannah covers education, local government, transportation, business, real estate development and nonprofits in these communities. Prior to CI, Hannah served as associate editor of The Houstonian, interned with Community Impact Newspaper and spent time writing for the Sam Houston State University College of Fine Arts and Mass Communication and The Huntsville Item.



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