HOUSTON (FOX 26) - For several years, the Harris County Jail and the sheriffs who have operated it have drawn plenty of headlines and not the good kind.
Former officer and Houston City Council member Ed Gonzalez, a Democrat, seeks to lead the third largest sheriff's office in the U.S. and is not shy about criticizing the record of the guy currently holding the job.
"It speaks to that broken culture of cronyism, lack of transparency, lack of training," said Gonzalez. He is referring to unelected appointee Republican Ron Hickman, who is drawing recent scrutiny for shifting millions of budget dollars from street patrols to fund overtime at the jail.
"The current sheriff has basically admitted the money is being diverted to the jail and that the calls for service may be a lower priority, so your 911 call may not be responded to or very slowly at that," said Gonzalez. He added that he has the management skills to keep deputies on the street while simultaneously containing incarceration costs and reducing persistent violence within the troubled jail.
"It shouldn't be a death sentence going into the county jail," said Gonzalez. "These are people's loved ones that are in there. They are yet to be proven guilty and while we need strong public safety and to be tough on crime, we also need an element of compassion to this as well. Because it’s our Democracy."
As a bilingual Hispanic Texan, Gonzalez told FOX 26 News that he considers his heritage as an asset delivering insight that can help diffuse simmering mistrust between cops and communities of color within Harris County.
'I think I could be a bridge for both sides to better understand each other," said Gonzalez.