‘Don’t be kryptonite, be the hero!’ Harris Co. Deputies’ Organization partially blames city leaders on rise in crime, deaths of law enforcement officers
HOUSTON – Leaders in local law enforcement are calling out elected officials, blaming them for the rise in crime. They say local judges are also partly responsible for the recent string of law enforcement deaths.
According to a new report, nearly a quarter of the country’s law enforcement deaths this year have happened in Texas.
In Harris County, five law enforcement officers have been killed this year, and leaders with the Harris County Deputies’ Organization Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 39 are speaking out.
At a press conference held Wednesday, representatives of the organization called the criminal justice system in Harris County broken and said they are demanding that election officials step up and do something to stop the crime in the area.
Numbers show murders committed in Houston, Harris County, Baytown and Pasadena totaled 330 in 2019, increasing to 467 murders in 2020, and 615 in 2021.
“Far too often we have seen the violence in Harris County. We have seen the murder rates out of control, and we need to discuss a brief history of Harris County and how this all started,” Harris County Deputies’ Organization President David Cuevas said. “We can look back in 2019 of a massive wave of cancerous judges that got elected.”
The organization cites a number of reasons for the high crime rate in the area, specifically blaming judges who are letting criminals back out on the streets, a backlog in the system, and low bonds.
They’ve also raised concerns about the county jail, saying it is in crisis with the rise of fights and assaults on deputies. They saw law enforcement agencies are severely understaffed and struggling to protect citizens and their own deputies.
“There is no accountability for the violent offenders. The industry of crime knows this, they are becoming more violent, more aggressive,” said Senator John Whitmire. “It is unbelievable to sit and watch the evening news and see people being pistol-whipped at the retail store and the tire store. They don’t want to go back to work. It’s impacting every element of our society.”
The organization is urging Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Harris County Commissioner Adrian Garcia to do more to protect the community.
“Don’t be the kryptonite, be the hero. Step up!” Cuevas said.
At a separate press conference, Hidalgo and Garcia responded.
“We are doing everything we possibly can within the budget that we have and we’re going to see what more we can do, but frankly, it’s political season,” said Judge Hidalgo. “It’s the kind of accusations that are going to come.”
Commissioner Garcia said the county has never de-funded the sheriff’s office but rather increased funding by more than $103 million from 2019 to 2021.
“We have not only invested in the technology, we have not only invested in the overtime to go after the evildoers, and we have not only invested in new patrol cars,” Garcia said. “We have invested in the people who have been carrying us through this particular challenge themselves and their families.
Judge Hidalgo said commissioners have invested more than one billion dollars this fiscal year into law enforcement, including a 5% raise for deputies and more funding for the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.
“Some are saying you could do more,” she added. “There was a proposal to try to do more for our budget and that included laying off hundreds if not thousands of people and cutting back vital public health services for the community.”
She said they’ve also pumped a lot of money and resources to address the county’s criminal backlog.
“The vast majority of folks that are out on bond and recidivate are out because they paid, not because anybody let them out,” Hidalgo said. “There’s always going to be some people that recidivate because no judge has a crystal ball, but the bigger issue is that folks can either afford or they are getting a discount.”
She argued the Harris County Deputies Association’s press conference with Sen. Whitmire was purely about politics and not the facts.
“I will remind folks that the Senator and the legislature had an opportunity to do something about this. They could have made sure that people just can’t pay their way out and be free when they’re dangerous and they could have followed the advice of law enforcement when law enforcement asked not to pass the open carry law,” Hidalgo said.