13 Undercover report gets results

April 14, 2009 1:35:24 PM PDT
Some 13 Undercover video prompts a call for heads to roll, as Houston police investigate the mayor's prized mobility response team. The police department's internal investigation, triggered by our reports last month, will be over in May. Now there are requests for more money, so you -- the tax-payer -- won't be taken for a ride. It was billed as the mayor's SWAT team to fight congestion, but our hidden cameras exposed a waste of money in March. MRTs were sitting in cars instead of working and ignoring broken traffic lights.

"I'm embarrassed about it," said HPD Asst. Chief Vicki King. "The Houston Police Department is committed to making it right, because that is what we are charged with doing."

We saw MRTs standing on sidewalks, not directing traffic. In fact, in one case we saw them blocking a lane of traffic for no good reason. The video that most angered city hall was an MRT ignoring an elderly woman who was trying to cross a busy street.

"I would not personally trust one of those people who were caught on film," said Houston city council member Toni Lawrence. "I just wonder, where were the people who were supposed to be supervisors?"

The council committee was told that an HPD internal investigation could be done in May.

"We are reviewing issues raised in the 13 Undercover report," promised Asst. Chief King. "We are conducting work card audits, cell phone audits."

HPD has already reassigned some supervisors and given the MRTs a refresher course in exactly what they're supposed to be doing.

Lawrence said, "I have a major problem with HPD wasting taxpayer dollars, and us not getting a report at this point of who was fired, saying, 'Oh, they needed to be trained.' No, they have a bad attitude.

HPD now puts supervisors in unmarked cars to watch the MRTs. Council will soon be asked to buy them satellite tracking phones, so HPD can keep better tabs on where they are.

"They need the training, they need the understanding, they need the attitude to get this done," said Houston city council member Melissa Noriega. "And if they don't, they need to go."

But council is clearly still behind the concept.

"I don't want this committee meeting to turn into a 'let's beat up the MRT program,'" stated Houston city council member Mike Sullivan. "I've seen it to be successful. This mayor is behind it."

"We do need the program," stressed Houston city council member M.J. Khan. "We can't throw the baby out with the bathwater."

One council member called the 13 Undercover investigation a gift to taxpayers. "It was a contribution, for you to bring this to our attention," she said.

When the HPD investigation is over later this summer, we'll give you the results.

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