Here’s a clip from the Houston Police Officers’ Union publication, Badge and Gun (June/July 2009 issue), written by HPOU President Gary Blankinship, detailing how HPOU successfully helped lead the fight against a couple of bills by State Sen. Rodney Ellis that were aimed at reducing the frequency of unjust convictions. The bills were SB117, which would have required all law enforcement agencies in the state to “adopt and as necessary amend a detailed written policy regarding the administration of photograph and live lineup identification procedures”; and SB116, which would have required them to “provide training concerning the technological aspects of electronically recording interrogations to peace officers and other employees of the law enforcement agency who interrogate criminal defendants or suspects, including juveniles.” Both bills passed the Senate but died in the House during the chubfest.
I find it hard to understand the rationale of a police organization opposing stuff like this, especially the latter bill, but there you have it. The case for better eyewitness ID procedures is really strong, with so many recent DNA exonerations coming in cases where the original conviction hinged on a bad eyewitness ID. Meanwhile, given that the Lege passed legislation to increase the compensation given to those who are freed after being wrongly convicted, you’d think we’d want to take common-sense steps to minimize the amount of money we’ll have to be paying out in the future to these folks. Yet so-called “fiscal conservatives” Dan Patrick and Joan Huffman voted against both these bills, and received kudos from HPOU for their obstructive role. Go figure. Anyway, as far as I’m concerned, one of the best things our next Mayor can do in choosing a new Police Chief is to find someone who will be committed to implementing these sorts of reforms regardless of whether or not the Lege mandates them. It’s the right thing to do on so many levels.