It's called an Automated Vehicle Location System, nothing more than just a fancy term for a GPS tracking system. HPD uses it to manage its fleet.
"It's to basically keep track of our officers, where they are," said Captain B.D. Williams with the Houston Police Department.
"It's not big brother watching," said Captain Williams. "It's more for their safety."
Officer Stanley Matthews, an 18-year veteran of the force stationed out of HPD's Fondren division, had a tracking device in his patrol car. Police say last September, a supervisor became concerned after he discovered that Matthews' signal had disappeared and he couldn't reach the officer right away.
"The sergeants did a check of the system and found it was disconnected and that the wires had been tucked away in a compartment in the back of the vehicle, in the trunk," said Captain Williams.
It's an offense so serious, it cost Matthews his job. According to his indefinite suspension letter, the cable had been manually and intentionally disconnected. A plastic restraining or tie down band had been cut and removed.
"It indicates that there may be something nefarious going on, maybe something the officer doesn't want us to know, where he or she might be going at a particular time," said Captain Williams.
The letter also states Matthews checked out at 7:37am. The AVL was verified operating at 7:53am. The last confirmed signal that day was 9:26am.
Matthews claimed he had not accessed the unit's trunk at any point during the shift.
What's more, his supervisor found five small baggies containing a white powder substance later determined to be cocaine lying underneath the back seat. It has not been determined if the cocaine and the tampering of the AVL are related.
"The officer's statement basically told us he checked the vehicle before, did not see anything, but nevertheless, it was there," Captain Williams told us.
"How did it get there?" we asked.
"That's a very good question. That should have been part of the investigation, but it was not looked into in this part of the investigation," he answered.
While Officer Matthews was unavailable for comment, his indefinite suspension is under appeal. The department is standing its ground, too.
"We expect officers to tell the truth and we expect officers to not tamper with the department's property," said Captain Williams.
Matthews made his appeal through a union attorney to the civil service commission in hopes of getting his job back. We've been told a decision will be made by June 26. We'll let you know what happens.
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