Gov. Greg Abbott led a special Oct. 28 entourage to the Union building to collect support for signing his special Back the Blue pledge, a vow to support law enforcement agencies as opposed to defunding their budgets – as Austin does.
It was the latest stop on the governor’s tour around the big cities of Texas to gather support for the blue pledge.
He was not the only political celebrity present. There also were U. S. Sen. John Cornyn, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen and about 15 incumbents and candidates for the state senate and House of Representatives, alongside Mary Nan Huffman, Republican candidate for Harris County district attorney.
HPOU’s Ray Hunt, the Union’s lobbyist in each session of the Texas Legislature, played host to the esteemed group, which also included representatives from every Houston area law enforcement employee group.
Included were representatives from the Houston Police Retired Officers Association (HPROA), Organization of Spanish Speaking Officers (OSSO), the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the Harris County Deputies Association, The Texas Municipal Police Association, the Dallas Police Association (DPA) and Law Enforcement Association of Asian Pacifics (LEAAP).
While the main targets of Abbott’s Back the Blue effort were Texas cities and towns determined to defund police budgets and deemphasize the law enforcement institution, Hunt took pleasure in underscoring the contrast the city of Houston offers.
“We are very blessed here in Houston to have a mayor and council who unanimously increased our budget and recently increased overtime pay for police officers in order to keep our community safe. We know that’s not happening across the state. Look at Austin, Texas.”
Besides the governor, it soon became evident that Patrick, Bonnen and Texas’ senior U.S. senator were well aware that Mayor Sylvester Turner and the Houston City Council are setting the national standard for city government support of its police department.
Each of the elected officials or candidates present were Republicans from the Harris County delegation. They very graciously signed the Back the Blue pledge, which Abbott said 125,000 people had already signed. He was to continue his tour of the state to increase the number of signatures, emphasizing those of elected officials.
Hunt said if the governor could stay longer in Houston, he would get enough signatures to number in the six- or seven-digit categories.
Gov. Abbott, referring to HPD officers and police officers everywhere “have our backs.”
“Those officers need to know they have a governor, a state, as well as these legislators, who have their backs.”
Both he, Patrick, Cornyn and Speaker Bonner lamented the line-of-duty death of Sgt. Harold Preston and promised to support each of Texas’ dedicated police officers in the upcoming legislature.
On the other hand, the opposite is true for city officials – particularly in Austin, the capital city of Texas –who persist in defunding police departments.
Abbott promised a legislative agenda that will include ways to take firm action against city officials who turn their backs on the safety of their constituents by decreasing police budgets and forming policies that run contrary to state law.
The governor termed “disgraceful” city officials who advocate or succeed in defunding police departments, “inviting crime into our communities and endangering officers and their families.”
The group of state senators, representatives and candidates included Sens. Paul Bettencourt, Larry Taylor and Joan Huffman, a long-time dedicated friend of HPOU and no relation to Mary Nan Huffman, who was posing a strong challenge to incumbent DA Kim Ogg.
The masked politicos expressed genuine enthusiasm in signing the pledge, offering gracious support for HPD officers and sympathy for the blue family and the Preston family at the latest line-of-duty loss, the 117th HPD officer to make the ultimate sacrifice.
Abbott strongly vowed to put into place such measures as a minimum six-month jail term “for anyone who strikes an officer during a riot.” He also wanted enhanced felony charges for any person who lasers a police officer during a riotous activity.
Abbott was especially targeting Austin, which has severely reduced its police budget.
He promised that “the state will take over policing certain parts of Austin,” further stating that “We are also considering consequences for local jurisdictions who do not prosecute crimes already illegal under state law. Local officials cannot override state law with their own policy decisions.”
The governor had many good words for Houston officers, saying, “Thank you to you and your families. Texas is safer because of what you do. You have the enduring gratitude and unwavering support of your fellow Texans, including the leaders in the legislature in Austin, Texas.”
In their criticism of anti-policing areas like Austin, these high-ranking political leaders of Texas were lavish in their praise of Houston and the wide contrast. They singled out Mayor Turner and the council for their steadfast support of HPD with budget increases and the full funding of five new cadet classes.