Dear Editor

Not everyone agrees with everything that some of their friends believe, so I must disagree with some of my friends who oppose the citizens of Brownwood electing our chief of police.

I believe my perspective is somewhat different from most. I entered law enforcement over 50 years ago. After spending four years in the Air Force during the Korean “conflict,” I joined the Detroit Police Department. After deciding that I didn’t want to raise my family in a big city, I joined the U.S. Border Patrol and have been stationed and worked in many parts of the U.S. for a total of over 30 years in law enforcement. We have lived in Brownwood more than 20 years.

I have seen what happens in all levels of law enforcement when there are changes in administration. Believe me, politics heavily affect the way all parts of all governments function, as does political cronyism. Specifically, I have had the privilege of working with all levels of law enforcement from federal to local constables. It applies at all levels when the top law-enforcement officer is an appointed position.

The effects can be as subtle as changing an officer’s duties or they can be as dramatic as a difference in what laws are enforced by the department. The appointed “top dog” is constantly kept aware of this as he/she comes in contact with various politicians or influential citizens who have clout with those politicians. The “top dog” also knows his/her job depends on keeping them happy, as witness the premature departure of our last city manager when some members of the city council didn’t like the way he was doing his job. This according to what was reported in the Brownwood Bulletin prior to his departure.

The effectiveness with which our laws are enforced usually comes down to how eager the individual officer is in doing his/her work. Please notice that, as reported in the Bulletin, our officers are doing a very good job. Our police officers and sheriff’s deputies are very well trained, capable people. As for Brownwood having a high crime rate, Brownwood is sort of a crossroads of Central Texas, and as such, seen as a convenient place, away from large population centers, where criminals can “slip in under the radar” because of not having enough officers patrolling our communities.

Now the department budget. The chief does not control the budget. For instance, the city council approves the department budget. The city council authorizes all new hires, all major and much minor equipment purchases. For instance, they didn’t approve funds so that the officers would each have their assigned Tazers or handi-talkies, so the Citizens Police Academy Alumni held fund raisers to buy some of each for the officers.

The city council approves (or not) overtime work, which, out of necessity, exceeds the amount allocated in the department’s annual budget. So, you can see that the city council’s main grievance is political control. They can’t control the elected chief as completely as they could an appointed chief. And by the way, do you remember that our sheriff is also elected, as is mandated by the Constitution? Do you suppose our Founding Fathers knew something about politics?

What I have presented you are verifiable facts with very little personal opinion thrown in.

Please let us keep electing our chief of police.

Ken Harris

Brownwood