Law enforcement unions speak out against Lykos

November 29, 2011 4:14:23 PM PST
Groups representing thousands of law enforcement officers in our area are calling for change in the district attorney's office. At issue is a drug policy they say is helping career criminals stay on the streets.

Five different law enforcement unions came forward on Tuesday, just one day after Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos filed for re-election.

Don't take politics completely out of this. It's campaign season, Lykos is running and will likely have a primary opponent in March. But the claims are serious -- unions backing thousands of officers saying they can't do business with the DA anymore.

For a district attorney who just a day ago started a re-election campaign, hearing this from unions representing 10,000 law enforcement officers isn't good.

"We have no confidence in District Attorney Pat Lykos," stated Ray Hunt with the Houston Police Officers' Union (HPOU).

On Tuesday morning the Houston Police Officers Union, the Harris County Deputies Organization and four other union groups said the DA just isn't doing it.

Eric Batten with the Harris County Deputies Organization explained, "The integrity and professionalism of the Harris County District Attorney's Office, as well as the safety and welfare of the public, are being compromised and could be better handled by someone other than Pat Lykos as the Harris County District Attorney."

The unions say Lykos has an unfriendly attitude toward police officers, that the burden to make a case to her assistants is unreasonably high, that criminal suspects are sometimes trusted over officers and that a 2010 Lykos policy to stop prosecuting small drug cases is making Harris County a more dangerous place to live.

Hunt said, "When you arrest someone on a crack case, if it's 20 miles north of here, it's a felony. If it's 20 miles south of here, it's a felony. But if it's in Harris County, it's not a felony. It's a paraphernalia case -- a class C misdemeanor, which means most people spend the night in a city of Houston jail and get out the next morning."

It's a policy that affects cases where there's a small amount of crack cocaine. Lykos was proud it when she announced the change in 2010, and it's a policy defense lawyers, some judges and the Harris County Sheriff agree with. But HPD and the union have always opposed the policy -- never more forcefully than on Tuesday.

"Will she be angry? Clearly, she will be angry," Hunt said. "But we're also angry over the last three and a half years of what's happened in Harris County."

The DA defends her drug policy, calling it a matter of fairness. She also believes individual officers will trust her to do the right thing, despite what the union says.

We reached out for an interview with the DA. She initially agreed but canceled once she was told I would be doing the questioning. Instead, she issued written responses to our questions.

Pat Lykos is apparently upset over the way I've covered the ongoing grand jury investigation centered on her office.
Previous In Focus reports on BAT vans:

  • Judge overturns DWI conviction due to BAT van issues
  • DA called to testify about comments on BAT vans
  • DWI cases being heard despite evidence controversy
  • Harris County DA responds to BAT van investigation controversy
  • Four Harris County Assistant DAs subpoenaed in BAT van investigation
  • Controversy in BAT van investigation
  • More In Focus reports

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