Fallout at Harris Co. Juvenile Detention Center

November 24, 2009 3:24:36 PM PST
Harris County leaders have made it official. Change is on the way at the Harris County Juvenile Detention Facility, the same place a juvenile managed to sneak a loaded gun past security We first told you two weeks ago a teenager managed to get that loaded gun past a metal detector and even a strip search. That metal detector turned out to be unplugged, and county leaders said the attitude towards security overall must change. On Tuesday, new people were put in charge at the juvenile detention center.

That unplugged metal detector sealed the fate of Harris County Juvenile Detention Center Executive Director Harvey Hetzel and Deputy Director Bob Husbands.

"The machine hadn't been functioning since April 2006 or hadn't been plugged in since April 2006," said Harris County Judge Ed Emmett.

But it wasn't discovered until November 9, three years and seven months later, when a 16-year-old got into the facility with a gun. The event prompted a recommendation by Emmett that the two men step down. Emmett was prepared to put the issue up to a juvenile board vote, but it never came to that. Both men submitted their resignations effective December 31.

"This is a good time to make some changes," said Harris County Judge Ed Emmett.

With that the board unanimously voted to name Thomas Brooks as acting executive director. And dr. Terry Snow-Smith as acting deputy director, effective immediately.

Brooks, who had been the deputy director of intake services, has 26 years with the county. He says the metal detector was just a symptom of a center infested with problems that he has promised to solve.

"There's an underlying current of people not coming forth of accepting the norm, and that's something we are going to stop," said Brooks.

Dr. Snow-Smith has spent 24 years with the county. During her preliminary investigation, she says she was shocked by what she's heard from employees.

"The most surprising thing was the level of complacency, passing the buck which is never acceptable," said told us.

Even when the metal detector issue was reported, it fell on deaf ears and the new bosses say that will never happen again.


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