What's the Caucasian Law Enforcement Association?

April 14, 2010 4:14:27 AM PDT
A sheriff's deputy is leading an effort to create a new association for sheriff department employees, one that's got a lot of people talking. Should there be a Caucasian Law Enforcement Association? Right now, Hispanic and black deputies have their own associations, and now at least one deputy wants to create one for Caucasians.

Dan McCool, a 20-year Harris County sheriff's deputy, created the group. He says it's open for everyone, even civilians. He says there are groups for all minorities, and he just wants to be included.

"I might have raised some eyebrows," McCool said.

McCool says that despite the name he's chosen, he's not a racist or a bigot.

"Our agenda is for equal opportunity for all employees," he said.

The group's website is still under construction, but it's been gaining members. There are 30 so far, and the first was a Hispanic woman.

"The day she found out we were putting it together, we received a phone call. She said, 'I wanna join,'" McCool said.

Since Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia took office, McCool feels he hasn't been represented by the existing labor associations. They, he says, haven't held Garcia accountable for what he promised in his campaign.

"There's still no transparency. There's still a lot of good ol' boy system. It's just changed from the old good ol' boys to the new good ol' boys" said McCool.

The organization was on the commissioners court agenda Tuesday because it is already in existence. Commissioners were asked to allow for an automated payroll deduction for members of this new group on Tuesday.

Caught by surprise, the commissioners decided to table the proposal and study the entire concept of payroll deductions for non-profit groups.

"If you wanted to belong to a group and you wanted your dues taken out of the payroll, it's deducted by the county," said Harris County Judge Ed Emmett. "Frankly, it's a pain to do it."

But it also raised the question of just what exactly is the Caucasian Law Enforcement Group. On its Facebook page, the group has more than 350 friends and says it was formed to ensure equal access and pay equality in Harris County.

A Harris County Sheriff's Office spokesperson said Garcia has no reason to comment.

"The application did not go through the sheriff's office, nor did it have to. And the HCSO had nothing to do with the court's decision, nor is the group officially recognized in any way by the sheriff's office."

However, the sheriff's department issued a statement about the remarks made by McCool.

"Hiring and promoting at the HCSO is done in accordance with civil services rules, non-discriminatory practices, and fairness and good sense.

"As for the few dozen employees hired at the sheriff's discretion, such as majors, the sheriff decides on qualification and has assembled a diverse staff.

"The HCSO is an Equal Opportunity Employer. We do not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, sex, age, national origin or disability."

The current African-American Deputy League hopes this new group doesn't damage its working relationship with the sheriff.

"My group does not align itself with any political group," said Lee Bumpers with the Afro-American Sheriff's Deputies League. "I think it's dangerous when you start taking employees' jobs and aligning them with any particular groups."

And the county's largest deputies union released a statement, saying in part: "If an individual believes they should be a member of a particular group based upon ethnicity, gender or race, then that is their right to do so. The Harris County Deputies' Organization is a multicultural organization open to all Harris County law enforcement personnel."

"They're trying to get the best qualified candidates they can, regardless of race," said Francisco Garcia with the Mexican-American Sheriff's Organization.

Both the Mexican-American Sheriff's Organization and the Afro-American Sheriff's Deputies'' League say they believe hiring conditions have improved in the Harris County Sheriff's Department in the last couple of years.

Apparently, this new group doesn't.

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