HOUSTON (FOX 26) - For much of its recent past, few people would argue that rare was the day someone was not assaulted somewhere inside the Harris County jail.
Jerome Bartee, a suspect in crimes related to drugs and weapons, suffered a beating in an altercation with jailers on Monday, was taken to Ben Taub General Hospital and later charged with assault. And that's likely where the issue would have ended, had a newly-installed high definition camera not recorded the entire confrontation.
"The video obviously depicts what we would see as unnecessary application of force," said Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman during a news conference on Wednesday. In other words, a "beatdown" which has earned three officers both immediate suspension and review by prosecutors for possible criminal charges.
Sheriff Hickman said electronic capture of this suspected excessive force has proven the first dividend of his department's $5 million investment in high definition cameras. He also said he believes that it is the kind of irrefutable, high-quality surveillance that can genuinely alter the often violent culture of incarceration.
"This will also hold our people accountable," said Hickman. "When you know you are being videoed by that eye in the sky, that can alter your behavior as well.
It's the kind of reform that Hickman hopes voters will notice -- making safer a place where more than 70 lives have ended in the last seven years.
Bartee's family spoke with FOX 26 News and the inmate continues to deny that he attacked detention officers.
Meantime, Hickman said the new high definition cameras replace an obsolete surveillance system that wasn't capable of recording images.