'We cannot protect you,' Harris Co. deputies warning if not given enough manpower

Bashing the Democratic majority on Commissioners Court and referring to Greater Houston as the "murder capital of Texas", the leader of the Harris County Deputies Organization (HCDO) announced his exhausted members have been asked to respond to more than a million 9-11 calls over the past year - an average of at least 2,700 each day.

"We only have 56 district deputies on any given day to run that many calls. How in the hell are we supposed to protect you?" said David Cuevas, HCDO President. "Give us the resources we need to do our job! If not, get out of office. The cancerous mentality that you have is sickening."

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Backing the union's call for more manpower was State Senator John Whitmire who identified the massive backlog of unresolved criminal cases as a force multiplier for lawbreaking.

"There is no accountability for the violent offenders. The industry of crime knows this. They are becoming more violent, more aggressive. (Harris) County go to night court, go to weekends, get rid of the backlog. Let people know that if you rob and steal and murder there will be swift and certain punishment. That has to be the new norm. It's not today," said Whitmire.

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Despite the scrutiny drawn by a Federal Class Action lawsuit, Union leader David Cuevas says conditions at the Harris County Jail remain dangerous and too often, deadly. The cause: a lack of manpower.

"We don't have the staff to protect you. If you are an inmate, you are on your own. We do not have enough staff to protect ourselves," said Cuevas.

Whitmire, longtime Chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, says since the outset of the pandemic the number of convicted criminals sent to Texas prisons from the state's most populous county has fallen by half with disastrous results.

"Prior to COVID, we had 147,000 inmates incarcerated.," he said. "Today we have less than 120,000, but we are right in the middle of a crime surge. So where is the difference? They are on the streets of Houston." 

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Cuevas took aim at Harris County Chief Information Officer Rick Noriega who he believes bears responsibility for a justice system computer failure that triggered the release of scores of criminal defendants last month.

"Slick Rick, you don't deserve that job. You don't even deserve the right to work for the County," said Cuevas. "Commissioners fire his (expletive)! Get rid of him. Step up!" 

Whitmire criticized the lack of effective action by County leadership, the majority of which are members of his own political party.

"It is becoming known that Houston is a lawless community," said Whitmire. "We cannot allow lawlessness to become the norm, and we desensitize ourselves to what's going on."

County Judge Lina Hidalgo has repeatedly argued that law enforcement budgets, including the Sheriff's Department, have risen during her time in office.

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The deputies say not near enough to deal with the thousands of defendants released on bond.

Cuevas called on Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez to follow the lead of District Attorney Kim Ogg and fight for more funding.

"Ask for the resources. Let them know we need a pay raise," asked Cuevas in a message aimed at the Sheriff. "Take the handcuffs and shackles off and call these folks out. Where are you?"