Being sheriff of Harris County is a bit like being a rancher. No matter what, at the end of the day you’re going to end up smelling like cow pies.
The Harris County jail is a stinking, overcrowded hive of around 10,000 souls, about 75 percent of whom haven’t been convicted of a crime. Even the best manager is going to end up with stink on his sheriff’s uniform. Voters have the difficult job of determining whether negative headlines coming out of the department reflect decades’ worth of structural failures or poor direction from the top office.
Part of the problem stems from the sheriff’s dual duties: providing police patrols for the 2 million people in unincorporated Harris County, and also running the jail. The first is the job of a law enforcement professional. The second is the job of an experienced manager who can handle a massive criminal justice facility that essentially serves as the largest de facto mental health unit in the state. Do the job poorly, and innocent people will die, criminals will unnecessarily suffer and taxpayers will be stuck with the bill.
At the beginning of this campaign we believed that Sheriff Ron Hickman should get the benefit of a doubt on his challenging task. The longtime Precinct 4 constable was appointed to his position by Commissioners Court when Adrian Garcia decided to run for mayor in May 2015. Since then, we’ve seen a series of problems created more by policy choices than inexorable jail conditions. A scandal in his former constable’s department places these problems in a wider pattern of questionable management. Because of these issues, we encourage voters to support Democratic challenger Ed Gonzalez for sheriff. read more…