Memo leads to long waits at courthouse

July 27, 2010 4:23:48 PM PDT
Some Houstonians are losing their patience, saying a money saving measure within the Houston Police Department has become a big inconvenience. People trying to fight traffic tickets or serve on a jury for a traffic case are being forced to wait hours in court. Houston's city attorney says the new policy is designed to save taxpayers money. Those who came to municipal court to fight their tickets call it downright ridiculous.

Jacqueline Leggington arrived at municipal court at 7:45am Tuesday to go to trial on her ticket and was told she'd have to wait five hours for the Houston police officer who wrote it to show up.

"I was very, very upset and extremely disappointed," she said. "If I have to show up at 8 in the morning, he should have to show up also."

The change comes on the heels of a memo sent out by the Houston city attorney's office through HPD, advising officers who've been called to testify to show up in court at 1pm, even if they're ordered to be there at 8am or 10:30am. It was put into place as a means to cut back on police overtime.

Houston City Attorney David Feldman asked, "What's the best use of that officer's time and the taxpayers' resources? We don't think it's to have the officer sitting around waiting."

Feldman says trials typically don't get underway until after lunch. He believes the new policy could save taxpayers $4 million a year.

Attorney Paul Kubosh believes it's the city's way of pressuring citizens into giving up and paying their tickets out of frustration.

"It's very much a money-making scheme," Kubosh said. "It's their way of trying to balance the budget off the backs of the citizens."

Leggington says it's nothing more than a waiting game -- one she's refusing to play.

"This is ridiculous," she said. "They need to change it. I told my husband and he said he's going to write the mayor a letter."

The Houston Police Officers' Union is also taking a stand against this new policy.


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