HOUSTON - Convinced the jobs of their deputies were in genuine jeopardy, all eight Harris County Constables and scores of their supporters packed Commissioner's Court looking to de-rail a controversial study proposed by Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia.
Critics viewed it as a first, dangerous step toward consolidation or even elimination of the agencies.
One by one the Constables pushed back against Garcia's initiative.
"We believe this is just the beginning of your means to the end, to reduce the services of the Constables," said Silvia Trevino, Harris County Precinct 6 Constable.
"Since I've been in office, you've been doing everything you could to undermine my office and it is time it stopped," said Sherman Eagleton, Harris County Precinct 3 Constable.
"If this is political, if this is personal, what it is it's pitting officers against each other," said Ted Heap, Harris County Precinct 5 Constable.
"We sound a little angry because we care. We don't know what you care about, but we care about our Community," said May Walker, Harris County Precinct 7 Constable
Garcia, a former police officer and Harris County Sheriff, says he aims to examine the effectiveness and potential downside of privately funded patrol contracts between neighborhoods and the county's eight constabularies.
In an uncomfortable moment, Republican Commissioner Steve Radack accused his Democratic counterpart of settling a political score.
"I think you need to educate yourself how well the program works because I don't want to fund a personal vendetta by you," said Radack.
Garcia vehemently denied the allegation.
In a critical moment, Sheriff Ed Gonzalez called the Constable contract system invaluable.
"In no way should the contract program ever go away. It's a force multiplier for their agencies, for ours as well," said Gonzalez.
Minutes later, Commissioner Garcia took his study proposal off the table.
"I just want to make these programs better, so they better serve the citizens, but I agree there was unnecessary fear and concern about what this item was intended to do," said Garcia.
Garcia expressed concerns that the County could experience fiscal restraints under a property tax cap imposed by lawmakers in Austin and should be examining all money-saving options.
Constable Heap estimated the subsidy from private contracts helps put an additional 1,015 officers on Harris County streets, reducing response times.