Category Archives: crime news

Memo to manager: Next chief should endorse community policing

Amarillo City Manager Jared Miller has a huge hiring decision to make soon. He needs to find someone to succeed Ed Drain as chief of the city’s police department.

Miller isn’t going to ask me for my advice, but I am going to give him just a bit of it here in brief form.

Mr. Manager, be sure the next top cop endorses community policing as a way to maintain the city’s relationship with the neighborhoods its officers swear to protect and defend.

Drain has been named the police chief of Plano, Texas, a burgeoning Dallas suburb. He went to Amarillo after serving for more than two decades with the Plano Police Department; he rose to the level of assistant chief.

Drain’s hiring in Amarillo was arguably the sole shining moment of former interim City Manager Terry Childers’ stormy tenure at City Hall. Childers took a hike and the city hired Miller from his city manager’s post in San Marcos.

Drain, meanwhile, reinstituted the community policing program that former Police Chief Robert Taylor let grow fallow during his years as the city’s top cop. I believe that was a regrettable policy decision on Taylor’s part, given the many miles the department had come under the leadership of his immediate predecessor, the late Police Chief Jerry Neal.

Community policing puts officers’ boots on the ground in the neighborhoods they patrol. They develop interpersonal relationships with residents. The policy is designed to build trust between law enforcement officers and the community … thus, the term “community policing.”

Drain has vowed to maintain the policy in Plano. As for Amarillo, I believe it is vital that it remain in force in that city.

I don’t know how Miller is going to conduct a search for a new police chief. He has some fine senior officers on staff already in the Amarillo PD. I actually have a favorite, if he’s willing to be considered for the post.

If Miller goes outside the department and looks far and wide, it would be my hope — no matter what he decides to do — that he insist that the next Amarillo police chief be as dedicated to community policing as Ed Drain was during his brief tenure there.

The policy works.

Dallas police chief might need to accelerate crime-reduction goals

If I were a betting man, and I’m not, I might be willing to wager some dough that Dallas Police Chief U. Renee Hall could be in some trouble with one of her bosses, Mayor Eric Johnson.

Hall’s department is in some serious trouble. The city she is in charge of protecting and serving has been in the midst of a violent crime wave. The city suffered through more than 200 homicides in 2019. Chief Hall has pledged to reduce violent crime by 5 percent this year.

Mayor Johnson has said that isn’t good enough. The chief’s goals aren’t aggressive enough. He didn’t say so the other day, but he seemed to my ears to imply that his patience is pretty thin as it is and he wants the chief to re-do her strategy for reducing violent crime in the Texas’s third-largest city.

My wife and I — along with our son, daughter-in-law and our grandkids — live in the greater Dallas area. We all venture on occasion into the belly of the beast. While we aren’t in imminent danger all the time, it does give me pause whenever I travel into the city.

I understand fully the difficulty of the job that U. Renee Hall took on when she became Dallas’s top cop. I am not a police expert. I cannot offer any counsel on how the city’s police department can stem the crime wave that is plaguing the community. Gov. Greg Abbott recently stepped in by ordering the Department of Public Safety to dispatch state troopers into Dallas to assist the city police department, freeing up Dallas PD officers to concentrate more on the violent crime incidents.

If my ol’ bones are accurate, though, and Mayor Johnson is as alarmed at the crime crisis as he suggests he is, then the police chief will need to get real busy … real fast.

Hearing the unspeakable … in church

(Andrew Sentipal/Dreamstime/TNS)

I could have lived an entire lifetime without hearing the words that opened our Sunday morning worship service in church today.

A wonderful gentleman who we have befriended at our Collin County church stood before us and implored those in our congregation who have a state of Texas-approved concealed handgun permit to bring their weapons with them to worship. 

To be brutally honest, the message from our friend hit me like a punch in the gut.

We are reeling in North Texas by the events of a week ago, when a gunman walked into the West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, near Fort Worth, and opened fire. He killed two parishioners before a volunteer security guard at the church fired a single shot from his pistol and killed the gunman.

The guard is being hailed as a hero. Indeed, he did his job perfectly. It took all of six seconds to eliminate the threat by the shooter.

This is what we have come to in this country of ours. Men and women of faith are now fearing for their safety in houses of worship. In the name of God Almighty, what in the world is happening to us? Moreover, I am quite certain other church congregations all across the country heard something similar to what we heard this morning as we prepared for prayer.

Our friend acknowledged that he packs a pistol hidden away; he is licensed by the state. He said he attended a seminar sponsored by our police department that spoke to the danger posed by lunatics who venture into houses of worship to perform their evil acts.

He gave us a brief primer on what to do in the event gun violence erupts in our church. Our friend told us what he would do while standing guard at the door, as he does each Sunday.

I know I am stating the obvious, but we are living in dangerous times. I just never imagined hearing what came to us today. It illustrates the dire peril we all face … even as we go to church to pray.

God help us.

FW police chief to officers: Wear your gear for Sunday worship

Fort Worth Police Chief Ed Kraus has offered an interesting and, frankly, creative idea for the men and women who serve the public in that community.

In light of the West Freeway Church of Christ shooting in White Settlement a few days ago in which a gunman shot two parishioners to death before being killed by a security guard, Chief Kraus has asked his officers to wear their uniforms during Sunday worship services.

That is an excellent idea that police departments all across the nation ought to ponder enacting.

Kraus’s idea is simple and straightforward. Wear the uniform, with all the gear associated with it — yes, firearms, Taser, handcuffs and club — while praying to God. It might deter some future lunatic from doing what the White Settlement shooter did.

Kraus’ message went out on Twitter. It says in part: This simple act will help reassure congregants, as well as serve as a deterrent for anyone intending harm. Ideally, officers will first inform their worship leaders and obtain their agreement.

My strong hunch — given the life-threatening danger presented by such lunacy — is that there isn’t a worship leader anywhere who would resist.

William Barr: biggest disappointment of Trump Cabinet

I wanted William Barr to be a stellar choice to become U.S. attorney general. I wanted him to demonstrate that Donald Trump was capable of selecting someone with high honor, integrity and gravitas.

He has disappointed me in the extreme.

Barr came to the AG post after serving in that position for President Bush 41. He distinguished himself well serving as the head of Justice Department near the end of President Bush’s single term. My hope when he emerged as the successor to Jeff Sessions was that he would do so yet again.

Instead, he has done so many things that have shattered my misplaced optimism.

He disagreed with the inspector general’s findings that the FBI was not motivated by partisan bias when it began its probe into the Russian attack on our electoral system; he continues to insist that the FBI “spied” on Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign; he misrepresented special counsel Robert Mueller’s findings into “The Russia Thing”; he said Mueller cleared Trump of “collusion,” when Mueller did nothing of the kind.

Former AG Eric Holder has said that Barr is “unfit” to serve as attorney general. I fear he is right.

William Barr took an oath in effect to be the people’s lawyer. He has become the president’s personal legal bag man.

He is the No. 1 disappointment to emerge from the Trump morass.

Shooting incident turns out OK, however …

Does a single shooting involving a gunman who was shot dead by those with handgun permits make me believe that it’s OK to allow guns into houses of worship?

No it doesn’t. However, it does give me pause to offer a word of gratitude that church congregants had the presence of mind to end a spasm of gun violence quickly before it could get much worse.

A shooter opened fire this morning in a church at White Settlement, Texas, a Fort Worth suburb. He shot two people in the church, one of whom died; the other suffers from life-threatening injuries.

Then some worshipers who happened to be carrying weapons opened fire on the gunman, killing him on the spot.

Texas legislators recently approved a law that allows concealed handguns in houses of worship. Only those who are licensed to carry them will be allowed to pack the weapons while worshiping.

I am not yet persuaded that this is a good idea. However, I certainly am grateful that the bystanders who were in the church sanctuary had the skill to end the nightmare quickly. Such relatively good fortune — and I use that term with extreme caution — isn’t necessarily a guarantee that future incidents will produce similar results.

White City Police Chief J.P. Bevering called the congregants who killed the gunman “heroic.” Yes, they most surely are. The rest of the congregation at West Freeway Church of Christ owe them an eternal debt of thanks.

‘American carnage’ continues

(AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)

I am officially out of ways to express my outrage, my dismay, my grief, my fear over the gun violence that keeps erupting.

The latest spasm occurred in Jersey City, N.J. It involved two shooters who reportedly held deeply anti-Semitic views. They also shot a police officer who was trying to arrest them.

So, we have a hate crime and a crime against law enforcement rolled into one tragic event. Six people are dead. Another American city is grieving.

The only good news to come out of this latest tragedy is knowing that the shooters are dead, too, taken out by police officers responding to the rapid-fire mayhem that erupted.

Donald Trump vowed at his inaugural to stop “this American carnage.” He hasn’t done it. I don’t hold him responsible for this latest tragic event. I merely want to call attention to the president’s vow and his assertion during the most recent presidential campaign that he “alone” was capable of repairing what he said was wrong with this country.

I happen to believe gun violence ranks at the top of the matters that need fixing.

Well done, Sheriff Richardson

I just got word via social media that a great police officer and a courageous public servant is calling it a career in Randall County, Texas.

Sheriff Joel Richardson is retiring. A former Randall County district attorney, James Farren, has endorsed Chris Forbis to succeed him. I don’t know Forbis. I want to speak briefly about Richardson.

I wrote a blog more than 10 years about how Richardson stood up to take the heat when an inmate escaped from the county jail in south Amarillo. He said clearly it was no one’s fault but his own. Richardson didn’t toss any corrections officers under the proverbial bus. The inmate escaped from a “non-hardened” cell, crawled over the razor-wire fence, hitched a ride with a couple of fellows, who took him into Amarillo. The cops arrested the escapee later that evening.

The sheriff took the heat for the embarrassing incident. That’s what leaders do.

With that, I want to say it was my honor to know Sheriff Richardson during my years as a working journalist in the Texas Panhandle.

Here’s what I wrote in September 2009.

Taking the heat, like a man

 

First responders prove their heroism … again

A shooter opened fire today at a U.S. Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Fla.

He killed three people, injured about a dozen others. Then an Escambia County sheriff’s deputy shot the gunman to death.

I want to spend a brief moment saluting the first responders who saved a lot of lives today when the shooting erupted. This was the second such incident at a Navy base; the other one occurred at Pearl Harbor/Hickam Joint Base in Honolulu, where two individuals died before the shooter killed himself.

The latest lunatic was a Saudi Air Force student on station at NAS Pensacola. I do hope the FBI, the Navy and local authorities can obtain all the information they need from the Saudi Arabia government about this moron. Let’s remember that we’re dealing with a government that sanctioned the murder of a Washington Post columnist in Istanbul. This incident requires a full Saudi effort to get to the bottom of it.

As for the first responders, they hurried to the source of commotion. That the sheriff’s deputy was able to — in that euphemistic term — “neutralize” the shooter so quickly speaks to the professionalism that marks so many of our first responders.

The authorities have identified the shooter. You won’t see his name on this blog. I choose to remain silent on the identities of the fools who commit these heinous acts.

I want to speak instead of the heroes who answered the call when peril erupted once again. I also want to express once again how my heart is broken at the news of this violent spasm.

Did the AG actually suggest that the cops might not protect us?

U.S. Attorney General William Barr sought to buck up the nation’s law enforcement network, but in doing so he seems to have suggested something dire and dangerous if the cops don’t get the respect they deserve from the communities they serve.

“They have to start showing more respect than they do,” Barr said of the public. “If communities don’t give [law enforcement] the support and respect they deserve, they may find themselves without the services they need.”

It makes me go, “huh?”

Is the attorney general actually suggesting — if not encouraging — that police might not respond to calls for help? Is he saying that police officers might give citizens the short shrift if they need protection?

Say it ain’t so, Mr. Attorney General.

In a ceremony honoring the top police officers from around the nation, Barr noted that military veterans suffered years of scorn in the years immediately after the Vietnam War; that has changed dramatically since the time of the Persian Gulf War. This veteran thanks my fellow Americans for the change of heart.

Are the nation’s police officers feeling the same level of disrespect? Hmm. I don’t know for certain, but it seems as if that the AG’s comparison is a bit overcooked.

If the attorney general is encouraging cops to go slow on emergency responses because the communities they serve don’t love them as much as they should, then he is committing a profound disservice to the nation … and its police forces.