History shows there was nothing like Civil Service protection for HPD officers

The HPROA is working hard to get into place the health insurance assistance that we need.  Hopefully it won’t be too much longer.

The Political Action Committee has been working overtime with the upcoming elections.  An active endorsement was made via a video for Gov. Abbot.  Things are very active with the changing city and state slates of candidates.  Of special concern was Councilwoman Mary Nan Huffman’s election.  Successful efforts were made by the HPROA members in her district to help ensure her election.

Thankfully, a good number of younger retirees are joining and getting involved with the HPROA and its PAC.  They are the future of the organization.

The COVID resurgence threw a monkey wrench into everything this month, causing the regular business meeting to be cancelled.  We hope this won’t be an issue next month.

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The monthly luncheon of the old Park Place Rangers was Jan. 28.  The conversations covered the gamut of subject matter.  The subject of the changes in policing in general as well as the Houston Police Department were delt with in some detail.

The way a police department is run has changed dramatically.  Up until the end of World War II the general rule of politics was that of a somewhat perverted form of laissez fare.  Every time a new mayor in Houston was elected, HPD and other departments had a turnover of personnel.

You might be a captain under one mayor and chief, and the day after the election you could be a patrolman, a jailer or fired.  I’ve worked for a sheriff’s department that could legally fire you just because the sheriff wanted to, no reason given.

The Houston Chronicle’s April 11, 1929, edition listed about 50 officers that were to be demoted by name.  There were about 20 or so detectives slated.  Mentioned were Mickey Berner [grandfather of Fred Berner, Det/Sgt Retired] and his partner Herman Radke, who were partners with the only woman detective, Eva Bacher, on the “Morals Squad.”  Your politics mattered then because your livelihood depended on it.

The new chief, Charles McPhail, didn’t like horses or women and he got rid of all that he could of both.  Eva Bacher was the victim of these practices and was fired.  She became a store detective for Foley’s Department Store and remained active in social issues for many years.

Lt. “Hoss” Doss, Robbery and Homicide Divisions, around 1975, told us young detectives about how it worked back in those days.  The chief/mayors “man” came around with a big hat.  You put your badge in it.  That’s why the ranks are written on them.

When “the man” had collected them all, he left.  When he came back around, if you weren’t fired, he handed out the badge that he wanted you to have, i.e., patrolman, sergeant, etc.  Lt. Doss was a Vice Squad lieutenant on the day the old 1269M state civil service law took effect, which made all of the ranks on that day permanent and subject to civil service rules, so was “grandfathered” in at that rank.

A goodly number of World War II combat vets joined the department after the war and these practices were changed.  By 1947 the Houston Police Officers Association (HPOA) had been formed and the new civil service state law, 1269M, had been passed by the Legislature and verified by the citizens of Houston.

It took a while, but things got better.  Almost unnoticed, tacked on was the control of the Houston Police Officers Pension System, which has given us what security we have in our control over out own pension funds.  This money will disappear if local politicians ever get control over it.

For those fighting the good fight today that have the courage and intellect to persist and by the grace of God make it to retirement, at least there’ll be something there for you, if we can maintain control of our own funds.

Stay safe, watch your “6” and remember the old Gunny’s admonition:

“Just because you’re paranoid DOESN’T mean that there isn’t somebody out there trying to kill you!.”

Semper Fi.