New Precinct 6 Constable: Integrity, character is what the job requires

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Heliodoro Martinez is making changes and exorcising the ghost of the former chief in the city's East End (KTRK)

It's a big role being the high-profile chief of the long-beleaguered Harris County Precinct 6 Constable's Office, the law enforcement agency that serves the city's East End.

And it's a role that Heliodoro "Henry" Martinez is becoming increasingly comfortable in.

"I've learned that I'm the face of the department and when they talk about Precinct 6 I'm the image for them," Martinez said. "That's a big role, that's a big role to play. And it's one I plan to make everyone proud of."

Martinez was appointed to the role in November by the Harris County Commissioners Court after former constable Victor Trevino, who led the office for more than two decades, pleaded guilty to felony financial misconduct and a judge sentenced him to 10 years of probation. Trevino resigned immediately, pledging never to be a law enforcement officer again.

The cloud over Trevino, and the precinct, lasted two years before he was sentenced.

Martinez will serve out the rest of Trevino's term until November 2016.

Martinez told ABC-13 that he still feels Trevino's shadow in the building, but also said, "I'm here now."

"It's a culture that's going to have to change slowly and hopefully for the positive," he said.

As far as his officers?

"I want them to be able to hold their head up high and say, 'I'm proud to be a Precinct 6 deputy constable,'" he said.

And while Martinez said when he was appointed that would would not run for the job in his own right in 2016, he said he may reconsider if the community wants him to run.

"It's going to fall on them," he said of the East End community. "Come two years, they're going to have to make that decision."
He's certainly comfortable in the community -- he was born and raised in the precinct's borders -- and comfortable around fellow officers. He's been in law enforcement for 23 years, most recently leading the safety operation team at Houston Community College's Northeast Campus.

"When I'm speaking to fellow officers and my family is when I'm most comfortable," Martinez said.

And he's comfortable laying down ethics rules as Precinct 6's chief.

When Martinez stepped into the job, he immediately pledged never to fundraise out of the office. In addition, there will be no constable's charity, no more deputies forced to sell barbecue tickets or pony up political donations -- all allegations that dogged Trevino.

He also had his troops take an oath of ethics, which he printed out for the officers. By taking the oath, officers promise never to betray their badge, their integrity, character or the public trust.

"I told them to read it," he said. "Just like I do. Read it like you might say your prayers at night. Remind yourself why you took this job. This job didn't come looking for you. You came looking for it."

A key change Martinez is making: A shakeup of the Precinct 6 reserve deputy program.

In the last several years, some of Trevino's unpaid volunteer reserve deputies had been arrested for serious crimes. Martinez has already dismissed some reserves, including a motorcycle reserve squad, and is doing a thorough background check on the rest.

"Our reserve pool, we're whittling down little by little," he said.

Martinez has also let go several of Trevino's senior staffers.

And East End residents will soon see other changes, including more Precinct 6 deputies on the streets. He wants more officers in elementary school zones when children are coming to and leaving school to give them "a sense of safety," Martinez said.

"I respect this job very much and I want to make a difference for this community and for these deputies," he said.
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