Irresponsible ‘reporting’ – examples continue to grow without facts

Ray Hunt

Recent events across the United States have resulted in tense relations between the police and some in the community. The media has added fuel to these fires by being irresponsible and reporting rumors instead of verifying facts, and allowing some stories to “grow legs.”

They have created a feeding frenzy against officers across this country. We have heard about the case in Waller for several weeks, some accounts even implying that the lady was deceased when her mug shot was taken or that jailers may have had something to do with her death. The case was extremely tragic for this lady and her family, but there is not a shred of evidence uncovered that police or jailers had anything to do with her suicide.

In contrast, a few days after her death, an Asian man committed suicide in the City of Houston jail. It was just as tragic in that someone took their own life. It was reported on the news that day, and nothing else mentioned about it. There was not a shred of evidence discovered in that case that police officers or jailers had anything to do with his suicide, but that case did not gain any traction in the media and resulted in no protests or news conferences.

Why be responsible with this case, but not the in Waller?

A few weeks after that death, Houston Fire paramedics called for backup to assist them in dealing with a white female in crisis and being violent. HPD arrived to assist and had to restrain the female to protect her and those trying to assist her. Tragically, the female died. One media outlet requested information on the incident, but I never saw it reported on the news.

That journalist must have done his/her homework and realized the officers and paramedics acted appropriately.

In each of these cases, apparently the reporters covering these incidents found no evidence that police or jailers caused these deaths. Yet the media continues to report every protest and news conference on certain cases regardless of the facts.

One reporter even told me that he was convinced the female in Waller had committed suicide, but it’s still a “hot topic.” Let’s not forget the Ferguson, Missouri case where the news media never let facts get in the way of that “hot story.” There are still persons who think the suspect in Ferguson was shot in the back while his hands were in the air. The media is totally to blame for this false information, but these reporters are not required to answer to anyone.

And then we have our Houston “paper.” On Aug. 19 some cowardly “journalist(s)”who did not want to put their name on an HPD Reform article did their biannual hatchet job on the Houston Police Department. These “writers,” who stand behind police lines after the violence has ended or get their story from television, apparently think they know how to run a police department better than they can run a newspaper.

They claim that Houston officers apparently have gone unchecked for use of force for the last five years. They encourage civil rights advocates and average Houstonians to be troubled by their misinformation and ignorance. It’s no wonder their readership continues to decline.

The Houston Police Department is one of the most diverse departments in the state. Our department, along with our Command Staff, mirrors the diversity of our city. Can the editorial board of our local “paper” say the same?

Our officers receive at least twice the state-required training for police officers. We have close to 2 million citizen contacts each year and used deadly force (not necessarily resulting in death) less than 28 times per year.

The men and women of our department joined HPD to make a difference in the lives of Houstonians of all races. Houston Police Officers place their highest concern on the value of all human life. Police Officers do not wake up and hope they are involved in a shooting or have someone die in their custody.

Unfortunately, it appears that some in the media think differently and want to convince others of their misguided thinking. They print and report inflammatory stories and have no guilt in adding fuel to a fire and placing a wedge further between the police and the public because that sells papers and gets ratings.

I know this type of reporting can lower morale and make officers question why they are donning that blue uniform. I cannot imagine anyone reading today’s papers and watching today’s news and think, “Wow, I want to be a police officer.”

I receive emails and calls, and meet with persons all across this city on a regular basis. I am absolutely convinced that the majority of persons of all races still support the police and respect those who run toward danger instead of away from it. The media, who fall in the latter category, chooses to create stories where there are none and to focus their stories on a small segment of the community – of all races – who continue to distrust the police.

Thanks to each of you for continuing to do your job in the professional way in which you were trained. Do your best to ignore those in the media who offer no solutions but dish out plenty of ignorant criticism while knowing that the majority of Houstonians support you, respect you, appreciate you and know that you value life.

Rest in Peace, Mr. Thomas

On Aug. 18 a packed church said goodbye to the longest-serving police officer in the history of the Houston Police Department. Thankfully, Mr. Thomas was able to see the police headquarters named in his honor. He died two weeks after the special naming ceremony in his honor.

I was honored to be asked to speak at his funeral. This is some of what I shared with the attendees. I first met Mr. Thomas 25 years ago as my trainer and I passed by him at 61 Riesner. My trainer greeted him with “Hello, Mr. Thomas.” I asked why he had used the term mister instead of officer. My trainer then simply said, “Out of respect. He’s been on nearly 40 years.” Well, Mr. Thomas went on for more than 20 additional years. We believe he was a member of the HPOA/HPOU his entire career, but can only find paper work back to 1966. As you know, most members join the HPOU for legal representation.

We checked our legal files and found no documentation that Mr. Thomas ever used any legal services his entire career!

Mr. Thomas opened up and shared his story with very few in this department, but our past president J. J. Berry was one of those few. One day J. J. and I found out that it was Mr. Thomas’s birthday and went to 1200 Travis to take him to lunch.

He would not go with us because he said there was no one available to take his post. He did, however, spend close to 30 minutes sharing old stories with J. J. as I listened. After hearing some of those stories, I realized that if anyone had a right to have a chip on his shoulder or a bad attitude, it was Mr. Thomas. However, he had neither. He was a loyal employee who respected authority and embraced the values of Honor, Integrity and Respect. He was the epitome of what a Houston police officer should be.

Chief McClelland, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Chaplain Monty Montgomery, and Reverend Bill Lawson honored Mr. Thomas with great tributes.

Now that the police headquarters will forever bear his name, Mr. Thomas may be gone, but he will never be forgotten.

Rest in peace good and faithful servant. We will always call you Mr. Thomas – out of respect!