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Interview with: Carol M. Lynn
Interviews by Louis Marchiafava
Date: November 5, 1974
Archive Number: OH 108
LM: (00:09) Interview with Chief Carol Lynn, November 5, 1974. Chief Lynn I’d like to get some background on you. Are you a native Texan?
CL: No. I adopted Houston whenever I was discharged from military service in 1954. I’m from Arkansas. I was born there and lived there until I went into the military service in 1950.
LM: When did you first join the Houston Police Department?
CL: In 1956.
LM: Did you have any prior police experience?
CL: No I did not, except for a short time in the military service. I was in the police branch, but it was only for about 1 year.
LM: What led you to join the Houston Police Department?
CL: Well, actually I was going to college at the time. I was going to the University of Houston, and I was working part-time and going to school almost full-time, and I had a job that didn’t pay too well on a part-time basis. I heard an ad on the radio while I was driving down the street that said that you could make $300 a month. At that time it sounded like a lot of money, and I told my wife that I thought I’d come down here for about 2 years while I finished my degree. Somehow or another, I got stuck.
LM: What was your major area of interest in?
CL: I was in pre-law at that time. I was thinking about being a lawyer. (chuckle)
LM: Well, you have become to a certain extent.
CL: I practice it sometime; I don’t know how legal it is. (chuckle)
LM: What was your view of police work at that time? What did you think you’d be doing?
CL: (01:54) Actually, to be honest with you, I had no idea when I first came in. It was—everything was new—it was just a great big world. I wanted to get into the radio patrol section. That seemed to be where the action was. Of course—you have to realize—I was in my early 20s, but as far as the broad picture of policing, I was probably about like everyone else. I really didn’t know what was really going on.
LM: What were your various positions when entered the force?
CL: When I first got out of the academy, I was assigned to the traffic bureau, which I didn’t enjoy at all. I rode a three-wheeler for 3 months, and then I worked a corner for 3 months directing traffic. At then end of that time, I asked for a transfer and received it to the radio control division. That’s where I really wanted to work when I first got out.
LM: What positions followed?
CL: I was—after 2 years I was called into the training academy and was asked if I would take a position as an investigator there, and I was promoted at that time—at that time, we had a position called an investigator. It did pay more, and it was a rank structure. I was promoted at that time to an investigator, and worked in that position for a couple of years.
LM: And then you were—?
CL: I was—later on, through the promotional process—through the taking of tests, which is all supervised by state law—I was promoted to detective. I worked in Homicide as a homicide detective for a little over 4 years. Then I was promoted to lieutenant, and I took over at that time a division command, which is not—usually a lieutenant does not take over a division command; he takes over more of a shift command—but I took over the personnel division at that time. I stayed in there for a few years, and I was promoted then to captain and was asked to take over not only that, but a little bit broader aspects of it. Then—of course—I was promoted to the position of inspector, which is called deputy chief today, for 1 day prior to becoming Chief of Police. So I’ve been through each rank from the bottom to the top.
LM: (04:44) The last few years—say 4 or 5 years—when you were holding a higher rank, what problems did you note in the department which you thought needed attention?
CL: I always thought that one area that we needed to be working on very badly—so that we could solve other problems—was the manpower problem. Houston is the only city in the United States that really is about half-strength. It seemed to me—from being in that area—that we never put enough manpower or money into the area. As a matter of fact, we put very little into it. And I could never understand why. Everything that I ever tried—it seemed like—was vetoed. It almost seemed like that there was an effort to keep us a half-strength department.
LM: Vetoed by whom?
CL: Well, it had to be by the chief, of course.
LM: Can you remember any specific proposals that were vetoed?
CL: Yes. I would ask for additional personnel; it would be denied. I would ask for additional supervisors; it would be denied. I would ask for teams to go into—recruiting teams such as I now have on the streets—to go into other cities where employment wasn’t quite so full as it is here in Houston, and set up a five-man team to go in and rent a motel, and set up a recruiting center for a maybe a week or 2 weeks; it would be denied. I would ask for that well-known thing, money, so that we could better operate; it would be denied. It was quite frustrating, really. I worked with what I had and tools I had. Actually while I was in that position, I hired over half the manpower of this department. But I always felt that given the proper tools, we could have done a much better job.
LM: I can understand, perhaps, the reasoning behind extending further the money. But what were the reasons for preventing your men from going out to other cities to recruit?
CL: Well, it wasn’t that we couldn’t go. It was just that if we went, we would go with maybe one man and no money. So it kills you right then. Like now I will send five men, for example to—let’s say—San Antonio. Now preceding this I will send one man to go down and set up all of the advertising in the newspapers, radio and television telling everybody where we will be so that they’ll know that we are going to be there. Then when they come, there will be an adequate number of people to take care of them. You don’t have to tell a person that they can’t go, you just don’t give me the resources and there is no reason to go.
LM: What do you think the real motivations were behind this?
CL: (07:51) I have no idea. I have no idea. I simply had to accept it and work with what I had, and I think that we did a good job considering the amount of men that we had. We worked very hard and tried our best to put the classes together. We simply received no help. Let me give you an example. In terms of money we’re not talking about that much money. This year I have only spent $28,000 out of the city budget in recruiting. But that $28,000 is going to be—is going to see us hiring around 300 people. Now that’s not much money when you’re talking about a $45 million budget. That’s very little, especially when that is one of your biggest problems. I was never able to get any money in this area.
LM: Were there any other problems that you confronted during this time?
CL: That confronted me directly—I don’t—I assume not in my specific work—these were the problems that frustrated me—throughout the department there were things that I probably did not agree with. They were really not my concern. My concern was what I had been delegated and assigned to, and this is what I tried to work at.
LM: How about recruiting blacks? Was this encouraged?
CL: No, it wasn’t. It was an attitude that if one of them managed to stumble in and he meets all of the qualifications, go ahead and hire him but don’t spend any particular effort or time trying to recruit any minorities. It wasn’t put in such a way that we don’t want them, but it was just an idea of trying to recruit—or developing a program that we would try to recruit—blacks was just absolutely no.
LM: Wasn’t there an office formed for better community relations during Short’s tenure?
CL: Yes, there was a community relations program at that time.
LM: Was it effective?
CL: As far as recruiting goes, no it was not. I don’t what—the chief at that time—I don’t know what he wanted out of his community relations program. I have one—I say I have one—we have one in the department now. I know what I want it to do but I don’t know exactly what he wanted this function to be. It did not help us in recruiting, and it didn’t help us at all in recruiting minorities.
LM: (11:03) What do you want your program to do?
CL: I want them to reach—I guess in broad terms—I want them to reach all areas of the city, all organizations and all people, and to cause the people of this community to feel a part of this department—to believe that we want to help them, and to believe that we need their help—that it is a joint effort. I believe that we are headed in this direction. We made last month 529 speeches out of the community relations division. It’s a very small division and they made them to all peoples—blacks, browns, whites, all types of civics organizations, church groups—we’re not leaving anyone out. If someone wants a speaker we furnish it. People more and more—now that they’ve learned this—are calling us for a speaker. If they call and say specifically, “We would like a Mexican-American speaker.” We send them a Mexican-American speaker. If they say, “We want a black speaker.” We send them one. But this is—I believe what I’m trying to do is to get the public more involved in law enforcement, because I really believe that it is their business if we are going to solve the many problems involved.
LM: Are you meeting with more success in hiring minorities?
CL: Yes. This year already I would say that we’ve hired more people in minority groups than we have in the past 3 years combined.
LM: During Chief Short’s tenure, strong criticism from the black community of the police department—phrases such as “racist police” was used, “Klan police”—do you find any of these accusations justified?
CL: I think that the attitude—I have found some attitudes that I am not at all happy with in the Houston Police Department. I think mainly—what I have found in a few officers—there was an attitude that anything almost went as far as a black person or a brown person was concerned. This is—of course—very difficult to overcome—the attitude problem. I think that probably 90 percent of the complaints that I receive—and have received—have been because of attitudes. This is an area that I’ve worked very hard in, and I think this is beginning to improve. I think there’s still room for more improvement, but we’ve only had a little over nine months to work on it. What I want to see is that I want Houston to have a tough police department—and by tough I mean efficient—that can keep the peace under any circumstances, that polices fair, but I want it to be a courteous police department. I think this is one of the hardest tasks that I have before me.
LM: How do you change attitudes in a police officer? That sounds extremely difficult.
CL: (14:48) I think in the very beginning what you have to do is you have to discipline some people pretty strongly, and this I have done. I have been—I’ve had the sad task of having to fire far too many people, and I’ve had many people resign that’s never even made the news media. They just said, “Well, we’re not going to work under these circumstances.” The circumstances simply being, when they stop a traffic violator I expect them to say sir or ma’am to them, to treat them nice. I don’t expect a police officer to take physical abuse off of anyone. I don’t take it myself. But on the other hand, courtesy goes a long ways not only in building the respect of the police department, but in getting the job done. You can get a lot more done by being courteous—even to a criminal—than you can by being discourteous. This has been proven in many departments. I am in the process now of putting together a school, and the only way that I know of saying the type of school that it is going to be is a school that teaches courtesy. It’s one of the hardest things; I’ve been working on it for 9 months. I’m getting some help from outside to help me put it together, but it’s going to be—when we finally get it together—it may be the first of its kind in the United States. I think it is, because frankly I haven’t been able to find a school across the United States that has this type of a school aimed specifically at police officers. Go ahead.
LM: Can you briefly describe it?
CL: I think that it will—I don’t have the total format down yet—but I think it will wind up being a—you might say—a small version of what Dale Carnegie puts out. It will have to be condensed, because we simply don’t have the time to let the policemen off very long to go to this school. I’m working—for example—with Bud Hatfield and some other people putting this together to make this a real, believable course that the most cynical policeman will buy. It’s a toughie to put together.
LM: I can well appreciate that. How were cases of brutality handled under Short’s tenure?
CL: I really don’t have personal knowledge of this. I probably am not in a good position to speak from that standpoint, because he did handle them out of this office, and I was not really privilege to that information.
LM: How do you handle this?
CL: When we have a complaint—any type of complaint that comes in—I look at the complaint. If it comes to me—and I would suppose that 90 percent of them do—or I don’t know if that many do or not—quite often a person may just call a sergeant or a lieutenant on the streets, and they may go by and handle it verbally, which is good because quite often it’s just a misunderstanding of what the law might be. But if a complaint comes across my desk I read it, analyze it, and I write a letter to the Bureau Commander over this thing, pointing out the specifics of the complaint and the officers involved, and ask for a full investigation. If there—for example—yesterday I received a very unusual complaint, and I asked not only for a complete investigation, but in the final analysis—when it’s over—I asked for all parties concerned to be in this office telling exactly what went down, because it was an unusual complaint and it appeared that the officers did make some bad errors in judgment. I handle them a little different depending on how serious they are. Sometimes a complaint can simply be handled by picking the phone up and calling the person and say, “Hey, you need to talk to the garbage department about that; we simply don’t handle it.” But the real brutality complaints we do make a very intensive investigation, and they usually wind up about a half-inch think in paperwork. We try to make it open, and if I see that there is the least bit of cover-up, I am capable of taking the investigation over myself.
LM: (19:34) How big a problem is the loyalty that’s built up in the lower ranks—say between a sergeant and a patrolman, maybe a lieutenant—in trying to cover-up these things?
CL: It is a problem, of course. Understandably, when people in police work—when they work close together—maybe one man has saved another man’s life—it’s pretty hard here to say, “Investigate this man.” It should be that way really. We have a tough job. A policeman’s job is a tough one—and we have policemen killed; we have policemen hurt weekly. It’s not an easy job and you’ve got to have this stick-togetherness or you get killed out there on the streets. But I think of things—it takes time, I think, for policemen themselves to come to the point that they want to be professional and that they won’t tolerate certain things, even from a friend. They will just have to say, “Look buddy, I won’t go for that. That’s too far.” When you can reach this far in your police department, to where even your own brother officers will tell another one, “Hey, you’re wrong.”—then you really are on the road toward professionalism.
LM: How is your relationship with the black community now as contrasted with—say—2 years ago?
CL: Oh, I think it’s totally turned around. It’s different as night and day really. I go out in the community quite often. I make speeches—oh, I guess—on the average of two to three times a week, and I go not only in the black community but in the white community as well—all over. I’m received very well in the black community. And as a matter of fact, I don’t take a bodyguard with me. I go out to speak—for example—to 500 blacks. I find the reception is good although there are always some complaints—and I guess there will always be as long as we have a city—but I find that there are many compliments on the way that the individual officer has handled certain situations in their neighborhoods. They say that this didn’t happen prior to this. They were even treated courteous, that the officer went out of their way to help them. Things like this, they do encourage you after you’ve worked 16-18 hours a day and are hoping that there are some results. This is encouragement.
LM: (22:19) Are you receiving specific cooperation from various black community leaders or chicano leaders?
CL: Yes, I am. I think I’ve received good cooperation. I’ve worked closely—for example, there are many—most of the state senators who are black—I think I’ve worked with all of them. I’ve worked with the Mexican-American senators very closely. They’ll call me on the phone, and if they think something is wrong, they’ll tell me real quick. If I think they’re wrong, I’ll tell them. We talk very openly. I met with several of them this weekend. We have—I think—a real good working relationship—for most of them a first-name basis now. I think that’s the way it should be, because they are representing a group here in Houston—sometimes there is something that—well, I’ll give you an example. This Inglewood explosion that we had about 3 weeks ago—after we had covered that very well—we had about 1500 people that suddenly didn’t have a place to go; they didn’t have food or anything, and I had one of these representatives call me and said, “Hey, Carol, we sure need some help. I’ve done everything I can, and I probably just don’t have enough stroke.” So I got on the telephone real quick and called three people; and I had them food, blankets, and shelter in about 15 minutes. Together we solved the problem. The people were okay for the night. I think this is democracy in action and the way it should be. On the state level he can get a lot more done than I can.
LM: Have you ever worked with C. Anderson Davis?
CL: (chuckle) You know—I have met with that gentleman on one occasion, and to be honest with you, I was unable to work with him. Completely. I did go out of my way to have lunch with him one day, and everything that I proposed he was against. I even started to the point—I started agreeing with him on anything regardless of what it sounded like, and then he started changing his own story—disagreeing with himself—and I finally had to bust out laughing and point this out to him. So I came to the conclusion that I was wasting my time—that he was not serious in working with the community problems, and I haven’t met with him since.
LM: I’d like to move on now. There’s one other area that I’d like to cover in this aspect of problems that you found when you assumed office, and that was the use of federal funds.
CL: 25:13 There’s a very sad thing about the federal funds. Houston has missed about $30 million for the Houston Police Department by not becoming involved with this. We should have been the leader in this 13-county area. We are involved in the makeup of 13 counties, and out of those 13 counties Houston has 66 percent of the problem, which indicates that we should have been the people to put it together—say how it should be spent. On the LEA funds, they are spent pretty much the way the area wants it spent. What we did was zero, and we let the very small cities take control of it. The city with a two-man police department has as much of a vote as I do with 2800 people. This is kind of ridiculous, but this is the way it is set up. However we just lost $30 million—I have joined with them and trying to—I guess—play make-up in this thing, but the sad thing is when this first came out, there was so much money that we could have built so many buildings; we could have received all of our new communications from the federal government, which is simply yours and my taxes that was paid being given back to us. The only thing that we did is say that we don’t want our tax money back. It was absolutely stupid.
LM: What was the reason for it?
CL: The reason was that somewhere out there, there was some great big octopus that was going to devour us if we did it. It hasn’t devoured any of the rest of the people around here. I meet with the other chiefs of police all the time; they are under the same controls we are. Any agency in the federal government can come in here. There are several investigative agencies that are always looking around and always have been. So it doesn’t change anything and it hasn’t hurt their police departments. It’s just giving them more money. It’s sad to go out here to a small police department and look and realize that they have new equipment—new buildings even—and we’re sitting here in an old building and just haven’t moved forward to the extent that we should.
LM: Are you satisfied now with the funds you are getting?
CL: (27:39) This next year we should receive about half of the funds going into this 13-county area. Not quite what we should be getting—but considering that we are just starting—I will have to say yes, I am generally satisfied with it.
LM: When did you first begin receiving the funds?
CL: We received the first funds about 3 months ago. We applied for them shortly after I got into office, but it does take some time and everybody was a little skeptical wondering, “Is Houston really going to go into it?” They just hadn’t for so many years. I just regret that the $30 million—considering over the past 5 years when inflation wasn’t so great—we could have built an academy away from this department. We could have built new facilities all over this department. We could have had the best in the United States and we just didn’t do it. This I am very sorry of.
LM: I’d like to move on to another area dealing with the selection of a police chief. Everyone—of course—remembered when you were appointed, but I don’t think people really understand what is involved. What is the process? How were you selected?
CL: You know, I have never really pinned the mayor down on that and I don’t really know. I didn’t give him any money or anything like this. I thought that change was needed, and I felt that he was the only man that could do the job. I was called and asked to go see him, so I went, and we sat down and talked for an hour-and-a-half about all kind of things. He thanked me, and I was called back a second time, and we talked again. I was called in a third time, and by this time, I began to think this is—kind of—getting serious like—you know—we’re about ready to go steady here, and about this time I told my wife, “I don’t think he’s calling me over there for either of our health. We are both busy and he’s certainly”—and he was putting a staff together, and he was a businessman in town—I guess—at that time. I talked to her about it, and asked her how she felt because I began to believe I might be offered a job. Then I was called in the fourth time; (chuckle) then I found out by some inquiries around the station that the rest of the people that had been called in had only been called in one time. I suppose on the last meeting I must have been with him for 3 hours. I believe on the fifth occasion he called me at midnight, and that was the day before he announced it. (chuckle) He said, “Carol, will you take the job?” And I said, “Yes, Mayor. But, do you always call at this time of the night?” (chuckle) That’s about the way the conversation went down and he laughed; he said, “Well, I’m still working.” And I said, “It’s a hell of an hour, but I guess I’ll have to get used to it.” So he said, “How about meeting me in my office tomorrow and we’ll go down to the downtown Rotary together, and I’ll announce it?” That’s the way it went down. I don’t know of what other things went on behind the scene, but we did talk over many, many hours regarding the department—I guess he wanted to know me better—and of course, I wanted—frankly—to know him as well if I was going to work for him.
LM: (31:44) What areas did he seem interested in regarding the operation of the police department?
CL: I think—in general—he was interested in my general knowledge of the police department. I think he was interested in my personal feelings about many areas.
LM: Can you give me an idea about one or two?
CL: He was very interested in how I felt about the—how a police department should operate as far as the matters that we’ve talked about—about being courteous and efficient. He was interested in—I think—if I was a fair person—as far as—did I have any great hang-ups or prejudices or was I anti-black, anti-brown—was I hung up on any of these things? I’ve always been a down-the-middle-of-the-road type person, and I think he wanted to know about my personal life—did I have a reasonable marriage and was I stable? These were the things—of course he asked me numerous questions—but these are that I felt that he was attempting to learn about me because we didn’t know each other. I also—I might point this out—that during the time, with my permission, he had a very thorough investigation made of me. Other than that, I have never known why he picked me.
LM: Did he ever place any political demands on you?
CL: Absolutely not. Not a one. As a matter of fact, the only order that Mayor Hofheinz has ever given me is to just build the best full-strength police department in the United States. That’s the only specific order he’s ever given me. I can assure you it’s big enough. It’s got all the headaches. He told me that he did not understand police work; he wasn’t going to try to be the police chief. He said you take it, you run it. And that’s the relationship we’ve had. Whenever the heat gets so great over here that I know it’s going to overflow onto him, I pick up this red phone and tell him. If he has a problem—a specific problem—he picks the red phone up and calls me. Sometimes we go for 3 weeks and never even talked to each other. Sometimes we talk four or five times a day, just depends on what’s happening at that time.
LM: What was his relationship with Short during this time?
CL: His relationship?
CL: (34:37) I don’t know. I really couldn’t answer that.
LM: I’m sure that the change in the office of Chief of Police must have created some administrative problems for you?
LM: Can you go into some elaboration on that?
CL: It was very difficult from an administrative standpoint to sit here—for example—when I first took over, I was faced with several problems from the standpoint of indictments we had going down in our narcotic division. It was quite obvious that we had some things wrong—just badly wrong. I guess in the first month in office I had about 11 indictments—high, felony-type indictments. My first move within 2 hours of being appointed to this position was to change the narcotic division, change the commander, to put a commander over—well I changed the commander of narcotics. I changed the commander of intelligence. I put a man between me and the three most sensitive divisions who could watch them all with time. I put in a concept known as the team concept where—it’s real simple—you just have a few men answering to one sergeant and they operate as a team. This works out real good because everybody knows who they answer to, and they know that somebody is always in charge. I think this was the biggest problem in the Houston Police Department—that throughout the department, no one was in charge, and a patrolman could just about do what he wanted to do. I have promoted—as a result of this—numerous people to positions of responsibility. I think this is the biggest thing that I have had to do is put people in charge, and give them the authority and the responsibility.
LM: In military organizations—or even in business—after a man has been head of it for quite some time, he develops a following—loyal supporters. When a new man comes in, they tend to feel withdrawn from him. Did you experience this type of situation when you assumed your duties?
CL: Oh, yes.
LM: Was there a faction?
CL (37:25) Oh, most definitely. I had probably—even at the very top—from the top to the bottom—the staff, the deputy chiefs—as they are called now—they were either neutral or against me. A lot of this was that they simply didn’t know me. I had never been a political-type person. I’d always been a person that had done my work and went home. I had never really been the type of person that hung around policemen a lot or got involved in the association or this kind of stuff. I just simply did my job and went home and had other activities that I liked to participate in. This was most difficult at first because I simply didn’t know who I could trust. I had these very difficult problems going down and, as a result, I was actually working 20 hours a day. I would stay in this office sometimes for 16 hours at a stretch and never leave it. It has changed a great deal now in just 9 or 9months. I believe that I have at least three-fourths of the staff behind me and that are really working with me. The men on the streets are beginning to come around. Of course it’s a long ways from the top to the bottom, and many rumors get started. I can put out something with the best of intentions and by the time it gets to the patrolmen sometimes it doesn’t quite come out the same. I have disciplined many people and this—
LM: Of all ranks?
CL: Of all ranks. This causes people to—kind of—be a little nervous. But I think it was necessary, and I may never have the following that I would like to have. In the long run what I want to have is a professional police department, and I have to want that more than I do the admiration of the men, although that is human nature to want that.
LM: When you speak of discipline, what form does discipline take in a police department?
CL: It takes many forms. One is the outright firing of someone, and clear down even to a letter of reprimand that goes into his file for a minor act or just a plain sitting down and discussing with an employee what he has done wrong—and oral reprimand. And there are many things in between. For example, last week alone—we do this quite often—we allowed two men to resign who had done some pretty bad things. We simply allowed them to resign and this happens quite often. It’s always best for the department—in some cases—if the men just quit themselves. They know that I will not tolerate certain things, and in these cases—both of these men had committed an act of theft. I will not cover it up. They knew they had to resign or I would fire them.
LM: Were these patrolmen?
CL: (41:03) Yes, they were patrolmen. I think this has to be—if you—with as many people as we have in this department, you simply can’t allow these things to take place; and I want the citizens of Houston to know that a patrolman or a sergeant or a lieutenant can go into their home after a burglary has been committed and not finish the job up themselves. I am just not going to tolerate this and 95+ percent of my people I don’t have to worry about. There are always those few and if you don’t check those few and watch them—and if you don’t discipline them—the rest can, in time, turn bad on you.
LM: What form of insubordination have you experience from ranking officers?
CL: Only a few, in a couple of instances where they didn’t totally carry out my orders. Face to face I haven’t experienced that much. I have a—I always try to smile and be real nice to everybody—but I have a terrible temper, and I fear that if anybody came in and be—totally rank insubordination—the mayor would be having a problem because—quite frankly—I fear I’d bust his nose open. That’s something that probably shouldn’t come out for some time, but I will run the police department as long as I’m here. I think you have to take this attitude when you are in a semi-military organization. You have to maintain control. You can’t have someone come in your office and simply shout you down or want to be the big man and pound on your desk. Anytime you allow this, you might as well get up from behind the desk and walk away from it, and I will not allow it. By the simple reason—frankly—I’m meaner than they are. I’m tougher physically than they are, and I have farmed this out to every one of them. That sounds peculiar, but sometimes you have to—I don’t like this—it’s not my nature to do this, but sometimes in tough situations you have to lay it on the line and tell them just like it is. I’ve only had to do it on a couple of occasions. I didn’t enjoy it at all. But usually the insubordination cases have been where you give someone an order and they fail to follow it. It’s not—it really hasn’t been too much of this.
LM: There was a case of some notoriety not long ago—in fact, it came out in the city council chambers—which gave the appearance that there was, indeed, a factional feud going on within the department about the hiring of a young man several years ago. Do you recall that?
CL: Let’s see, you are talking about the Heard incident? Yeah. Yes, I’ll probably never forget it. (chuckle)
LM: Would that be a correct observation? Was this an example of feuding within the department?
CL: (44:29) This case—of course the incident that was involved there occurred prior to me becoming chief of police. This case—I believe—happened on about the 12th of December, and quite frankly it should have been handled at that time—disciplinary action of whatever type should have been taken. But it wasn’t. It was swept under this beautiful red rug here. Whenever I took office, people came in with tremendous information and laid it upon my desk, and “What are you going to do about this case?” Of course it was very political—had to be—for the simple reason of who his father was. It was something that I had enough sense that I didn’t want to touch it; however, I knew I had to. I had to either touch it or not touch any of them, and it was a very painful thing. I really figured from the very beginning that we would probably lose it by the simple reason of who had the most political power at that time. When you first take over an office, you are so busy that you really don’t even hardly know what the workings are of the commission, the courts, and things like this. I did what was right. I don’t back up from it. I simply—I took the action that I would have taken against any patrolman, and the fact of who his father might have been just had—it just was—I was right. Our investigation was right, but right don’t always make you win, and you learn that—of course—early in police work. But we did what we had to do.
LM: There was a great deal of rumors that the only reason why it happened is because of who his father is and it has political overtones to it.
CL: Well, of course—if there ever was a case that would have been hidden because of who his father was, that was one case that would have been. I have taken the attitude in this job that I will not bow to political pressure. I don’t believe a police department can be run by political pressure, and I must say that the mayor has never asked me to bow to political pressure regardless of who the person might be. We disciplined some other people that had a lot of political stroke, and have done a little bit better job of it—and it hasn’t made such a news headline, but we’ve done some research ahead of time. If I had it to do over again I would probably do it a little different—knowing what I do today—I was in office 3 weeks at that time. It was murder, but I would do it today where I believe I could win it rather than lose it. I would do it, only I would do it a little bit better.
LM: Prior to assuming your duties, do you know of any attempts of politicians to influence the selection of policemen for the job?
CL: I never had any pressure—that’s one thing that I must admit. In the office that I held over there I never had any direct pressure from the chief to hire any political cronies. I must say that for Chief Short. He never one time pressured me on this, and for this I always was very appreciative. Frankly I wouldn’t have bent to pressure. That would have been a bad scene. I don’t pressure the people to hire anyone. I tell them to hire the qualified people. If I send a man over there, just treat him like you do anybody else. I don’t care if it’s a personal friend of mine, I’m a personal friend of his daddy or he’s a personal friend of the mayor. We must hire the best—any department that’s ever went political has lost. This is the way we stand today.
LM: (48:51) Are there any administrative changes that you’ve made that we haven’t discussed yet that you would like to mention?
CL: I think that in the future—I am looking now at a study—that I will probably put more emphasis—which I have been doing to a great degree—on the patrol function, the people that are on the street 24 hours a day answering the calls. I am considering right now changing about 168 men—taking them out of a function in the traffic bureau and putting them into patrol, which will be—if the newspaper knew that at this time, they would have a field day on it—but I’m doing the research first where I will have all the stats and the facts in front of me—with a little over half-strength police department, we badly need these people on the line.
LM: What about the use of policewomen? That’s been controversial subject.
CL: I’m hiring all of the policewomen that I can hire. In general, my philosophy on this is to put them in investigative positions—keep them out of the direction action. By this I mean out of patrol cars, but there are some 1500 other jobs in this department that they can fill. It’s equal pay. We are going to use policewomen about every place except the regular patrol function. That’s the action-arm of the department where you never know what type of call you’ll be making. There are many reasons for this—the size of the city—the largest in the United States—is covered by one agency, the strength of the department and the fact that most violent crime is committed by the male—is the reasons that I’m not going to use them in patrol. However, about every other function—including—I’ll probably be considering traffic for the women to relieve the men so that they can go into the patrol function.
LM: I think they do this in Los Angeles and several other larger cities.
CL: It’s been tried several places and, apparently, pretty successfully.
LM: One last question. I know you’re scheduled for some appointments, so I’m going to terminate the interview. But I did want to ask you this: Have you found—in the short time that you have been police chief—a difference in the approach to law enforcement between older ranking officers or patrolmen and newer men? Is there a difference?
CL: (51:32) I’m not for sure. There’s—maybe there’s just one of youth—they do look at it different than some of the older ones do, but I can’t say that my younger men are my best or that my older men are my best. I have got some older men—I’ve got some people in this department that been here for 30 years—that are as sharp as a tack, work 12 hours a day for 8 hours’ pay, some of the best investigators in the world. I’ve got some that aren’t so good. I’ve got some young men that do the same thing, and I’ve got some young men that are not so good. So I believe that it probably depends on the individual person, not his age and not the time that he’s been hired. I haven’t really seen that much of a difference.
LM: Is the Houston Police Department professional at this point?
CL: We are moving—I believe—hurriedly in that direction, and I hope that within another year that I can tell you that we are totally a professional department.
LM: Does that mean I have an appointment for a year from now for an interview?
CL: If you want one, I’d be glad to give it.
LM: Thank you very much. On behalf of the Houston Metropolitan Archives and Research Center, I want to thank you for your cooperation.
CL: My pleasure.
End of tape.