George Seber

Duration: 1hr: 21mins
Please read and accept the disclaimer below to continue.

DISCLAIMER

I have read and accept the terms of the disclaimer.

The Houston Oral History Project is a repository for the stories, accounts, and memories of those who have chosen to share their experiences. The viewpoints expressed in the Houston Oral History Project do not necessarily represent the viewpoints of the City of Houston, the Houston Public Library or any of its officers, agents, employees, or volunteers. The City of Houston and the Houston Public Library make no warranty as to the accuracy or completeness of any information contained in the interviews and expressly disclaim any liability therefore.

The Houston Oral History Project provides unedited versions of all interviews. Some parents may find material objectionable for minors. Parents are encouraged to interact with their children as they use the Houston Oral History Project Web site to complete research and homework activities.

The Houston Public Library retains the literary and publishing rights of its oral histories. No part of the interviews or transcripts may be published without the written permission of the Houston Oral History Project.

Requests for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to:

The Houston Oral History Project.
Houston Public Library
500 McKinney
Houston, Texas 77002


The Houston Oral History Project reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to decline to post any account received herein and specifically disclaims any liability for the failure to post an account or for errors or omissions that may occur in posting accounts to the Virtual Archive.

For more information email the Houston Oral History Project at information@houstonoralhistory.org.

I have read and accept the terms of the disclaimer.



Interview with: George Seber
Interviewed by:
Date: September 24, 1974
Archive Number: OH 161

Interviewer
00:00:07 Beginning interview with Mr. George Seber on September 24, 1974. Mr. Seber, when did you first join the Houston Police Department?

George Seber
February 1, 1927.

Interviewer
You remained at the force how long?

George Seber
Until May 1, 1969.

Interviewer
What positions did you hold in the Department?

George Seber
I went to work as a patrolman. After about a year, I was assigned to the emergency out of Central Station. That was before the days of radio. A few years later, I was promoted to detective and assigned to the Burglary and Theft Division. From the Burglary and Theft Division, I went to the Homicide Squad. I stayed in the Homicide Squad a number of years. About 1944, I had an opportunity to attend the FBI National Academy in Washington, DC. Soon after I came back home, I was promoted to a lieutenant and assigned to the Burglary and Theft Division. After approximately 2 years, I was promoted to Captain. I served in Burglary and Theft, the Vice Squad, and the Homicide Squad. In approximately 1953 or ’54, I was made Assistant Chief, which was subject to the civil service examination. I served in that capacity until I retired in 1969.

Interviewer
What were conditions like in the Department in the early period when you first joined?

George Seber
Well, when I first joined the Department in 1927, my training consisted of being assigned with one of the senior patrolman for 2 nights. We walked a beat. The third night, I was alone. In other words, my training period was over after 2 days. Of course, you didn’t have the communication—you had what was known then as a gable box ? call-in system. You had these gable ? boxes placed in places throughout the city, well in the business district, and you called in once an hour. That was your communication with what was going on. When you called in, they’d give you the all-clear signal or if they had anything for you, which they very seldom did, you was given that information. In about ’34 or ’35, somewhere in the middle 30s, they started experimenting with the radios. At this particular time, we had a few sets in a very few cars, and we received our calls through KPRC.

Interviewer
The local radio station?

George Seber
00:04:45 The local radio station at that time. Of course, in the very near future, probably within the next year, we got radio equipment. Our radio equipment in those days—we could only receive. We couldn’t talk to the station. When we was given an assignment, the assignment was repeated 3 different times, so they would know you got the call. We in the car had no way of acknowledging that call. We would proceed to the call. When we got through with the investigation, we would clear by telephone. Well, after a few years of that mode of communication, we come in to what we called then the 2-way sets, where you could talk to the dispatcher, but could not talk to other police cars—only to the dispatchers. He would give you a call, and you could acknowledge it. Of course, with that system, at least you could call in for reinforcement or help if you needed it. After a few years of that system, we got what we referred to in those days as 3-way system, where we could talk car-to-car, talk to the dispatcher. That system has since been expanded. In police work, communication is very vital. As far as conditions, the conditions in those days was nothing compared to the present day operations of the local police department. First thing, you didn’t have the school. You didn’t have an education. You didn’t have the seminars. You wasn’t specialized. One man would be given an assignment and he would do any kind of a job, whether it’s good or bad, because you had no specialized units. You had the radio patrol. You had the Traffic Division, and you had the Detective Division, but no specialized units other than these distinct divisions. Of course, you had men doing work—doing certain kinds of assignments—wasn’t trained for the job whatsoever.

Interviewer
Was there any formal training at all when a man entered the Department?

George Seber
00:08:00 The first formal training that we had, if my memory serves me right, was 1939. We got a new Chief of Police and his name Ashworth. He came out of San Antonio. He started a class of a certain number of men—a rookie class. At the same time, he started in-service training. From there, our training program has expanded. Of course, again, in those years, it was unsought of to send a man off somewhere to school on a specialized course, as you do today.

Interviewer
How did you learn your job--when you first joined the force?

George Seber
Well, it was difficult. Most of it, trials and errors. You didn’t have the supervision. Of course, you didn’t have the larger force that you have today. Even though we were small, we had very few supervisors. A supervisor wasn’t—they had to just learn by experience. They hadn’t been taught through any formal education.

Interviewer
Were you given a rule book or a conduct book?

George Seber
We had a little rule book of maybe 25 or 30 pages, which almost meant nothing.

Interviewer
Were officers taught when they could use their revolvers and when they couldn’t—under what conditions—according to what type of crime or—

George Seber
Are we talking about in the 30s?

Interviewer
Yeah. In the 20s—’27, ’28, when you first joined?

George Seber
No. No, we wasn’t taught any self-defense or any prisoner’s rights or when you could use our firearm or when you couldn’t.

Interviewer
When did that policy change—approximately?

George Seber
00:10:36 We had several gradual changes. I would say probably the policy or the gradual change come about approximately 1939.

Interviewer
What about the job security in the early period—in the 20s and 30s? Was there any job security?

George Seber
Really, you didn’t have any. You had a so-called civil service, but your department then was strictly political. A new Chief of Police would come in, and he would appoint new captains, new lieutenants, new sergeants. So, you start over again with a bunch of new officers that had actually been promoted from patrolman or detective to captain.

Interviewer
Were there many dismissals of patrolman?

George Seber
Yes, sir. Plenty. Especially after a political year. If a mayor got defeated or a new mayor come in, he would—a new mayor would bring in about 25 or 30 political obligations. He would dismiss about that many.

Interviewer
Did any of your ranking officers manage through some means to keep their positions over a long period of time?

George Seber
If we’re talking about in the 20s and 30s, no.

Interviewer
Right. That’s what I meant.

George Seber
No. You may hold it during the career of that particular mayor, but you got a new mayor and he was out. In the late 40s, you had a gradual change. The political atmosphere of the department was taken more out of politics—of course, your Chief of Police was appointed by the mayor, so you would have that change. By 1950 or in the ‘50s, those ranking officers—I was appointed lieutenant in approximately 1945 or soon after I come back from Washington. I never had an demotions.

Interviewer
00:13:45 Before these changes took place, there was a municipal civil service system. I take it it didn’t work very well?

George Seber
No, that’s true. Again, we are going to have to get back in, you say, the political field to clear that up. That was brought about when—because of a lot of dissension ?. We organized the Houston Police Officers Association. From that, we worked on—for better or worse—we worked towards a state civil service, which is administrated by the city. It has some bad flaws in it, but still it’s got some good points. It has helped stabilize our department.

Interviewer
Before the passage of the state civil service law, the police department operated under strictly municipal civil service?

George Seber
That’s right. That’s right.
Interviewer
How did the—how were the commissioners appointed?

George Seber
Appointed by the mayor. There were 3 commissioners appointed by the mayor.

Interviewer
Did officers—(talking at once).

George Seber
They were faithful to the mayor.

Interviewer
Did officers have the right to appeal to the commission in this early period?

George Seber
00:15:24 Yes, but most of these appeals was on deaf ears. I can’t recall anybody ever winning one.

Interviewer
Were officers in the 20s and 30s required to do politicking?

George Seber
It was encouraged, and you was smiled upon if you did a little politicking.

Interviewer
What did this politicking—what was expected of you?

George Seber
Well, it was expected of you to attend the political rallies. Of course, you must remember this was before the days of television. These political rallies could be a pretty large gathering of people, and they wanted you there to push cards. If you wanted to be the fair-haired boy, you would be there and push the political cards and shake hands and be seen.

Interviewer
What about pledge cards—what was this?

George Seber
Well, Oscar Holcomb ? brought the pledge card in. I never did have any faith in it. I know one of his campaigns, he had a certain number of pledge cards signed. When voting day come around, he got less votes that he had pledge cards signed. You were supposed to, again, if you wanted to be a fair-haired boy, you would push these pledge cards.

Interviewer
00:17:35 Were officers required to make financial donations?

George Seber
Well, a few did—a few did. Really, there—I don’t know of many pressured. Of course, again, a policeman in the 20s made $122.50 a month. Of course, $5 bought a lot of groceries, too. I don’t know of but a few that did that.

Interviewer
Did you know about these conditions when you joined the force?

George Seber
No. I was just a youngster.

Interviewer
What motivated you toward police work?

George Seber
Well, my daddy was a policeman. I thought that there was more security there. Today, that’s true. As I look back, in those days, the security wasn’t there. You could—if you kept your mouth shut—really, if you kept your hands clean in politics--they wouldn’t bother you. Of course, you wouldn’t get any promotions, but you wouldn’t be bothered.

Interviewer
How did you manage—is this how you managed to stay on the force that long? Did you follow a neutral position?
George Seber
Well, really, I stayed to stay out of cliques and groups throughout my police career. I could never see the advantage. I liked to do my work. I liked my work. I didn’t fancy too much to the little political groups in the department. I stayed out of them.

Interviewer
Did you ever lose rank because of politics?

George Seber
No.

Interviewer
00:20:02 When you first joined, Chief of Police Tom Goodson was in office then?

George Seber
That’s right.

Interviewer
Do you remember much about him?

George Seber
Well, no. It’s been a long time ago. The chief of police then was easy to see. It wasn’t as much of an administrative function as it is today. He taken ? a greater hand in the operations than I’d think you would today. That is, physically. Your present-day chief of police—he is sit down as an administrator behind a desk. Sometimes he don’t know exactly what’s going on because it’s got to be funneled in to him. I wouldn’t be in a position to say whether he was a good chief or a bad chief. At that time, in my rank, I was the bottom of the totem pole, so I couldn’t say.

Interviewer
The reason why I ask is for that time it was rather unusual—he held the chief of police job for about 8 years.

George Seber
He did.

Interviewer
Indications are that he was a strong chief.

George Seber
He was—as well as I can recall, he was well-liked. He came from a little town either Magnolia or Montgomery—up here in Montgomery County. His brother owns a Goodson Pontiac company or did. I don’t know whether he still owns it or not now. As you have said, he was chief for a number of years.

Interviewer
During this early period, what was the conduct of officers towards, first, the general public and, then, toward persons they arrested?

George Seber
00:22:36 Well, it’s nothing compared to what it is today. Of course, the general conduct of the officers to the prisoner, as I’ve said before, the prisoner’s rights was never adhered to. A prisoner didn’t have too many rights when he was arrested then. At that particular time, you would arrest a prisoner, and you could arrest a prisoner and mark him “hold for investigation.”

Interviewer
How long could they be held under this heading or classification?

George Seber
Well, under that title, really, you can’t hold them 5 minutes under that classification, but as a rule in those days, 24 to 36 hours—until they got through with their current investigation. They would either release the man or charge him, which is contrary to what you do today.

Interviewer
Was there much police brutality at that time?

George Seber
Much more than there are today. I think you had more so-called third degree—if you want to put that title to it—in those days than you have today. Of course, you had your fights with officers and prisoners. Some of that is classed today as police brutality when, actually, the prisoner had jumped on the officer, and you have a tug of war there for about 3 or 4 minutes. Upshot of that, they call that police brutality. Well, you had a lot of that in the old days.

Interviewer
There was actually third degree practices?

George Seber
Oh, yes. You had—

Interviewer
Beating for confessions?

George Seber
Yes.

Interviewer
00:25:05 How did the District Attorney’s office handle these confessions? Did they find them valuable?

George Seber
They wanted the confession. The district attorney during those days—if you had a case—the first thing he wanted to know—“Did he make a statement?” As you know today, very few statements are taken. Back in those days, they wanted statements, written statements.

Interviewer
Do you feel this encouraged third degree practices?

George Seber
Sure it did.

Interviewer
I have often heard the term “dragnet.” Was there much of that?

 

George Seber
Well, there was a whole lot of it. I never did know of a lot success out of a dragnet. Even back in those days, a lot of your police officers frowned on that. You would have a crime—a woman assaulted, criminally assaulted. Well, you had certain police officials, they wanted to get 15 and 20 suspects in jail, so they put out a dragnet—arrest everybody that was 5 feet 8 or whatever the description was, which really meant nothing because the next day the victim couldn’t identify them so they were released. It made publicity.

Interviewer
00:26:52 Was there any rationale used to select the people they would arrest or was it just random arrests.

George Seber
A lot of time, it was just the judgment of the officer.

Interviewer
Did mostly black fall victims to these dragnets?

George Seber
Well, not in every case. In a number of cases, and whites, Mexicans.

Interviewer
It was more or less than just simply going out on the street and selecting anyone that looks suspicious?

George Seber
They wanted you out there working and bringing somebody in.

Interviewer
How effective were officers during these early years in apprehending criminals? We’ve often heard persons say that if they just left the police alone, they would be just as effective now as they were 30 or 40 years ago when police were allowed to do whatever they pleased?

 

George Seber
Well, of course, that’s pretty hard to answer because your record system in those days was nothing compared to your record system in this day. Really, your selective enforcement gets the best results. You had effective record in those days. You had more informants in those days than you’ve got today. Of course, the informants back in those days were criminals themselves. The attitude of the citizen now has changed a lot of that. Citizens come forward with a lot of valuable information. Really, it’s hard for me to say if they were effective in those days. Of course, you had a smaller department, but you had a smaller city. The murder rate—I served a number of years in the Homicide Bureau. We still had a lot of murders back in those days, per capita; you had as many murders then as you’re having now. A number of years, we would have 85-90 murders a year. We would probably have 1 or 2 (inaudible). We had a pretty effective record. Of course, again, at that particular time, you started a specialized bureau. That’s all we had--murder cases. We would give them proper followup.

Interviewer
00:30:27 What was the attitude of the public towards police officers in the early years as contrasted with now?

George Seber
Well, I think the attitude—in spite of a lot of things you read and see—I think the attitude is better today than it was then. I think they’ve got more confidence in the police department today than they had 40 years ago or 30 years ago.

Interviewer
How did police officers react, again, during the early years, to strikes, to unions, to laborers? Was there much of a difference between then and now?

George Seber
Not a whole lot. I can recall the Longshoremen strike back in the 30s, which went on for—seemed to me—like months. It took a lot of the police officers’ time. I can’t see a whole lot of difference in the attitude. At that particular time, we would have officers in sympathy with the labor unions. You would have officers in sympathy with management. What we didn’t have—we didn’t have that classroom training, which taught a man to be neutral in strike situations. From time to time, you would have a little flare-up, such as a police officer stopping at the strikers’ station and having a cup of coffee with them or going into management’s office and having coffee with them, which now is a no-no. Basically, though, other than we’re better training in handling strikes, basically, it’s the same.

Interviewer
00:33:18 I was wondering--because of the lack of security or benefits police officers had during the early years—I was wondering, perhaps, if they did not relate more closely to working men?

George Seber
Yeah. You had that. As I’ve said, you had some of them that was in sympathy with them. Then, you had some that was in sympathy with management. During all my career, I never did work the field during a strike. Really, there’s lots of things that went on out there on the field that I didn’t know. My later years, as assistant chief, it was handled differently altogether than we handled in the early years. It would be hard for me to relate exactly. I don’t know how it’s handled now. We picked up, when I was there, we picked our supervisor, and he picked his men than handled a strike. The first thing he would do is go to the strikers and relate to them our position. You would give them a copy of the so-called “O’Daniel Act” governing that. You would then go to management and give them a copy of the law and explain to them our position in the situation. Both sides knew exactly what we was doing out there. Really, we had less trouble that way. Again, this supervisor handling this field work, he would get the picket captain or the man in charge of the pickets, and they would have some mutual understanding as to what each side was doing out there in the field. We really, in the last few years I was there, we really had not too much of a problem there.

Interviewer
I would like to go into the subject of special police officers. These were used quite extensively in the early period, weren’t they?

George Seber
That’s right.

Interviewer
Why?

 

George Seber
Well, it was a political gimmick. The mayor went and appointed somebody a special police officer because of his votes and because he wanted a hold that would keep his vote. As far as the police department, it was always a headache. The chief used to issue badges to these police officers—special police officers—if one of our officers out in the field come in contact with one of them it would create a scent quite often. It was a problem and a headache.

Interviewer
What type of—what legal rights did they have?

George Seber
00:37:23 They really had no legal right at all. They would carry guns, which basically was illegal then. Because he had been blessed by the mayor by giving him a badge, a policeman out there had better sense to arrest that man because he either a prominent citizen or a very good friend of the mayor.

Interviewer
What uses were they put to—the special police officers?

George Seber
To help the police department? None whatsoever.

Interviewer
What did the chief do with them?

George Seber
He didn’t do anything with them. He would issue them a badge and shake hands with them, and he would go on about his business—that is the special officer would.

Interviewer
They were on their own?

 

George Seber
They were on their own. They didn’t get out and really do any or try to do any police work. They were the worse violators of all of them because they thought they could violate the law because they were a special police officer.

Interviewer
Did they receive salaries?

George Seber
No.

Interviewer
Were they used in emergencies, such as strikes?

George Seber
00:39:02 I don’t recall any officer being used in a strike, other than our own uniformed police officers. Now the industries of management would hire him from time to time. The police department never used them.

Interviewer
What about the school guards? Were they considered special policemen?

George Seber
No. I don’t think so. You mean, our present school guards?

Interviewer
No, not now—then—say 20s, 30s, even 40s?

George Seber
We had some old officers. You didn’t have a retirement age at that particular stage. You had some old officers, 65 and 70 years of age, that really wasn’t physically able to do anything. They were given these school-crossing assignments. I don’t recall ever hiring any special officers for that until we come into what is known as the school-crossing guard. He is not a special officer.

Interviewer
In the 20s and 30s, you just mentioned the lack of retirement benefits. Were there any allowances made for illness or injury? Was there any security in this regard?

George Seber
00:41:12 As I can recall, you could accumulate sick time up to 15 days. I know there was a limit because I lost my father in ’39. He was ill over 15 days, and he had been cut off from payroll. My mother never did know it, but he had been cut off from payroll before he expired. Of course, injury on duty—I don’t recall. I’m sure they probably had to pay injury on duty. Up to ’39, 15 days was the limit of sick days you could (inaudible).

Interviewer
Were there any—before the formation of the Houston Police Officer’s Association, were there any other organizations which officers could belong to for mutual benefit or any other type of activity?

George Seber
There was no local organization. I’m not too sure about a national, but there was none of our men belonged to any national organization until we organized the local Police Officer’s Association, which later joined the national organization.

Interviewer
There wasn’t even a chapter for the Policeman’s Benevolent Association?

George Seber
No.

Interviewer
No chapter?

George Seber
No.

Interviewer
They have a chapter now, though?
George Seber
They have one now. That’s right. I don’t know how active it is here in Houston.

Interviewer
It only occurred after the creation of the Houston Police—

George Seber
00:43:21 Well, I don’t know when that—like I say—I don’t recall a national organization being active here before our Police Officer Association was organized.

Interviewer
What were race relations like in the department prior to the 50s or the mid-40s—prior to the mid 40s?

George Seber
Well, they were poor. You had no—there was no effort whatsoever to bring the races together during those years. There was an old police station in 401 Caroline, we had an old man running the elevator there that if a black man got on the elevator with a hat on, he would knock it off. He caused lots of embarrassment. There was really no effort to bring the races together. The NAACP was organized, but they were more or less fighting for survival. They wasn’t recognized as they are today back in those days. Your department did nothing to improve relationship.

Interviewer
What about treatment of black prisoners as opposed to white prisoners?

George Seber
Well, I would say they probably both got equal treatment. I don’t think there was anymore abuse on the blacks. There might have been a few isolated cases than they were whites during those days. Of course, that was during the years of the Jim Crow law. Your black man had to sit behind the sign on the street car.

Interviewer
Did the Jim Crow laws hinder developing good police relations with the black community?

George Seber
Well, I would say, really—they years we are talking about, the 20s and 30s, there wasn’t too many people in our department or the city government doing too much about bringing the people together.

Interviewer
Were there any black officers on the force?

George Seber
00:47:01 Yes.

Interviewer
How were they treated by their fellow officers?

George Seber
They were treated (inaudible) well. We had 5 or 6—not too many. They were some good officers. Some of them did good work.

Interviewer
Did they—were they restricted to the black community generally?

George Seber
Yes, sir.

Interviewer
Were they allowed to arrest whites?

George Seber
Well, there had never been any written order to that. They just knew better. They didn’t. If that occurred, I can recall one instance when a white man got in a black community when he was drunk, and a black officer arrested him. He had no problem. He called us and we went and got him.

 

Interviewer
When did black officers and white officers begin working together in patrol teams? Is that a recent development?

George Seber
Well, if we’re to say 10 or 12 years would be recent, yeah.

Interviewer
We mentioned before that a lot seemed to happen with the creation of the Houston Police Officer Association. Can you tell me a little about that? What motivated the formation of the association?

George Seber
00:49:03 I don’t recall the particular instance, but we got some bad publicity on what 2 officers—the way 2 officers handled a case. We had no way of answering to the public or getting (interruption on tape). We had no way of getting our viewpoint over to the citizen. They were 7 or 8 officers decided that what we needed was an association where if we needed to go public to answer some of these charges, we would be in a better shape, and to improve our own household and create some changes in our own department. Basically, that’s what created the Police Officer’s Association. From that, the Association did some good. It helped created better working conditions. Through that, we did entice a better class of men to apply for work. Prior to that, a police officer never got a raise. Then, it was strictly up to the judgment of the mayor and council of what they would give. Now, we got a—they have some demanding power now or demand to be heard. I think you’ve got some men on your list there that can give you plenty of good information in that light.

Interviewer
Well, you were one of the early members? As I recall—

George Seber
Well, I was just one of the original charter members. We had a number of meetings before we got it off the ground—secured a charter. Then, we like to got fired. We had a city manager—out chief at that time gathered us up and we went over to the city manager’s office for a little talk. I think it was Earl Maulkner (??) or somebody told the city manager the purpose of this organization. Believe it or not, the city manager said, “Well, I see nothing wrong with that.” So, that was the end of that. It’s been in effect ever since.

Interviewer
Did he know what y’all really wanted? Did he think it was merely a social club?

George Seber
00:53:02 No. I think he was a pretty smart man. I think he knew what we were after. I think he was smart enough to know that, really, he couldn’t stop us. He could probably have trumped up some charges or transferred some people around. I forget what I was—I don’t know whether I was a detective or lieutenant in those days. He didn’t. He dropped it. There was no more ever said about it. Ever since then, a lot of majors probably wished they didn’t have one.

Interviewer
First, let me go back for just a moment and ask you, where did the idea for the association originate? Do you recall?

George Seber
Really, I can’t—I don’t recall.

Interviewer
Do you remember if there were other similar associations in other departments around the country?

George Seber
As far as I know, in Texas, there were none. I know several years after we had our organization, then they started organizing throughout Texas. I’m sure there probably were other organizations similar throughout the country, but I’m almost sure, too, that we were the first one in Texas.

Interviewer
Do you remember who first came up with the idea? How did it all develop?

George Seber
Really, I don’t recall. I know I had some conversations with Earl Maulkner (??). If anybody—if any of the 7 or 8—if it was their original idea, I would say probably Earl. Now, where he got the idea, whether it was some outsider influenced his thinking. I’m not sure of that. I don’t recall who these other 7 or 8 were now. It seemed Frank Murr (??) was one. He’s dead. I’m not too sure whether Frank was on there. I’m sure the only one left in the department today is Earl Maulkner (??).

Interviewer
How did the association come to support the state civil service law?

George Seber
00:56:25 Well, we was looking for civil service, and we could not get it in our local government. If we could have got good civil service laws here, I’m sure you wouldn’t have a state civil service law today. We had to go to Austin to get something we couldn’t get here. By the same token, we went to the people back in those days a number of times for pay raises that we couldn’t get through our city government.

Interviewer
When you say you went to the people, what do you mean precisely?

George Seber
We got signatures and referendum elections and we never lost one. Later on, the firemen lost one. Back then, in the 40s, the first big raise we got, and we had to take it to the people of Houston. They voted us a raise. Then, we had to go to court to get it then, but we got it.

Interviewer
What was the reaction of the administration or the ranking officers in the department once they found out the seriousness of the association’s goals?

George Seber
Well, really, the goals of the association includes everybody but the chief of police. In other words, they worked for the benefit of the inspector or captain or lieutenant, right on down the line. With the exception of one instance, all these ranking officers were members of the Police Association. Now, I’m not speaking of the chief.

Interviewer
Were there any efforts to stop the association?
George Seber
You mean, after it once got organized?

Interviewer
Uh-hunh (affirmative).

George Seber
00:59:22 I don’t think so. I can’t recall there being any effort. I’m sure down the line there were some—been a lot of thought to stop it. I don’t think it got above the thinking stages.

Interviewer
I asked because several officers who were active during this early period did mention that various types of devices were used to hinder them.

George Seber
Could have been.

Interviewer
No effort was made on you, as an individual?

George Seber
No.

Interviewer
You said you had belonged to the Vice Squad, was it?

George Seber
Yes.

Interviewer
How did it operate in the early years—well, before the 50s?

George Seber
Well, you had the prostitutes, as you’ve got today. You had your gamblers. You had your telephone bookies. Of course, we didn’t have dice—that is, no more than—I mean—you would have your hush-hush games, probably what you’ve got today. It would be a hit-and-miss (inaudible). You would raid a telephone bookie. He would pay a fine. Next day, he would be moved somewhere else with another string of telephone—back in business. Vice in those days was an endless round-robin deal. I don’t know what the conditions are today. I’ve been gone 6 years—not living in the city. We did have a lot of street prostitutes. A lot of them were picked up on site, in the bag, and the judge turned loose the next day. Those cases (inaudible) tremendous (inaudible). A lot of them, you caught soliciting, they might pay a fine. While I was there, it was none of the wide-open.

Interviewer
What years were you on the Vice Squad?

George Seber
I think about ’50 or ’51. L.D. Morrison was the chief. I was in there a short time—I don’t know who I relieved of duty.

Interviewer
Now, the Vice Squad operated differently before Morrison took over, didn’t it?

George Seber
Well, you worked out of the chief’s office. I think it works under inspector today—special services. When Morrison had it, I worked out of his office. I would report to him.

Interviewer
Now, before Morrison took over as chief, there were some indictments and investigations—I think it was during Payne’s administration.

George Seber
Yeah.

Interviewer
Accusations that—

George Seber
01:03:53 Well, you talking about around ’46 or ’47?
Interviewer
Yes.

George Seber
Yeah. I was in the Homicide Division. I don’t know whether—I think there were more accusations than there were indictments.

Interviewer
Was there discriminatory enforcement of the vice laws—gambling laws—prior to Morrison becoming chief?

George Seber
No. You might be—you could have been handicapped by not having enough manpower. At one time, when Payne was Chief of Police around ’45, ’46, and ’47, he didn’t want anybody to molest gambling but the Vice Squad. Now, I think that’s when ranking got into his chammel (??). I don’t recall what it was, but it had to be about that time.

Interviewer
What was the reason for this arrangement?

George Seber
Well, I think it’s simple that it can be—if they’ve got any friends operating that they can give them that form or protection.

Interviewer
Was the administration mixed up in this sort of thing? Do you think the orders came down from the administration to the police?

George Seber
01:06:16 Do you mean from the mayor? It probably did. There is no doubt that they had some type of smoke signal. What signals they used, I don’t know.

Interviewer
But, there was a change afterwards?

George Seber
Yeah.

Interviewer
01:06:54 When you say that the Vice Squad would operate according to whose friends were involved—

George Seber
Well, you operated according to the way the administration wanted you to operate.

Interviewer
So, officers were restricted in whose gambling joints—

George Seber
Well, I don’t think there’s any doubt about that.

Interviewer
Did this have a corrupting influence on the department?

George Seber
It certainly did—had a bad influence.

Interviewer
What about the county law enforcement at that time? Was it operating the same way with regard to gambling?

George Seber
Yeah.

Interviewer
So, you had both the city department and the county allowing this to go on? Now, during your term as assistant chief, perhaps, you could relate some of the problems that you found in police administration. What were the major problems that you confronted?

George Seber
01:08:45 I guess trying to create an image there to the public. Of course, one of the big things that we had to overcome was distorted views that we would get on TV of instances happening hundreds of miles or thousands of miles away from Houston. In other words, our recruiting program has never been what it really should be and really not that today. A lot of that is caused by the mamas watching TV and seeing these hair-pulling contests and the mob scenes on TV. I guess one of your biggest problems that I can recall back—of course, I forgot about a lot of my problems. I left them down there with them. Trying to keep you men happy and contented and trying to keep the men placed in positions where they can do the best work, which is not always easy. (telephone rings)

Interviewer
I believe we were discussing some of the problems in administration that you experienced while assistant chief. Did you have many problems with discipline—enforcing discipline in the department?

George Seber
Well, that’s always a problem, whether big or little. It’s always a problem. Yes, but again, it gets back to your subordinates. It gets back to the captains. First, the inspectors, captains, lieutenants, and sergeants. We have found that if a chief or if a top echelon—if they are sincere in enforcement of the rules and discipline, that’s going to seep right on down to the lieutenants and the sergeants and the men. When they get lack—if there’s a little slack in enforcement anywhere up and down that line—it’s going to reflect on the patrolman.

Interviewer
Is there a reluctance on the part of officers to report one of their colleagues for infractions (talking at once).

George Seber
I think to a degree, yes. Once these things get out in the open, I think most of your officers are rather sincere. I can recall an instance where a gun disappeared—a pistol being handled by a couple officers. This gun disappears. At first, one of these officers was reluctant to talk. After somewhat of an interview, he let it be known that he was ready to talk and that his partner better tell the truth. His partner had the pistol. His partner did tell the truth. Then, they both come out with it. Sometimes, when there are 2 partners working together—2 men working together—you’ll find reluctance. If they’re not working together, it’s not quite so, even though they’re on the same shift. I think the biggest majority of them, they want to see that the rules and regulations are carried out.

Interviewer
How did you go about instilling a sense of professionalism in the department? Was this part of the goals that you had in mind when you were assistant?

George Seber
Yes. Well, it’s not an easy thing. If you’re going to be up in the classification and professional, you really have to be a professional at your work. You’ve really got to know what you’re doing and abide by not only rules and regulations of the department, but the state laws too. Again, when the top administrative section, if their goals are set high, these things are clarified and they know the men are going to have to carry them out and, at the same time, they know that the chief of police is behind them, we found it makes better police officers out of them. Once they believe sure of that, but if there’s any reluctance in the upper brass to enforce a vice law, it’s going to break down.

Interviewer
Since you’ve been—were in police work for so many years, it gives you a good perspective of the development it’s taken. Would you say that police professionalism is a reality now in the Houston Police Department?

George Seber
01:16:46 Well, they’re on the verge of that. I don’t think it’s quite reached that stage, but I hope the type of men they get today that within the next 8 or 10 years it will be.

Interviewer
In closing, I would like to ask you one more question. This deals with the controversial administration—police administration of Herman Short. You served under him?

George Seber
Yeah.

Interviewer
What kind of chief was he?

George Seber
Basically, Herman was a good chief. He had some inner feelings there that I think if he could ever got those feelings out of his system, he would have made a better chief of police.

Interviewer
What feelings do you mean?

George Seber
01:18:08 Well, one of them is racial. Now, he let a few things that I’m not going to mention go on that he should have stopped a long time ago, but he didn’t because it had no effect on the public. He supported his men. He got a lot of good benefits for them. He went along with some of the things that they wanted. He couldn’t get along with the black race. I think that’s all really what they got—what it’s all about—his attitude there.

Interviewer
Is he a flexible or an inflexible man as an administrator?

George Seber
He was flexible. (inaudible) I guess he and I communicated better (inaudible) a lot of people after I left. He was flexible with me.

Interviewer
Is he open to new ideas about conducting police business?

George Seber
Yeah.

Interviewer
Well, as we reach the end of this interview, I would like to ask if you have anything you would want to add that I didn’t ask you that you think would be of value to this interview—I encourage you to go ahead.

George Seber
Well, we have covered a scope there of 40-some-odd years.

Interviewer
Yes, we have.

George Seber
Probably, if I could have sit down and thought about some of these things over a period of 2 or 3 week with might have covered a bigger scope, but in the hour and a half or 2 hours, I think we’ve done a pretty good job. I would just like to close that there is no comparison in the department today as it was when I went in—none whatsoever.

Interviewer
On that positive note, we’ll conclude the interview. I want to thank you on behalf of the Houston Metropolitan Archives and Research Center for your participation. You’ve been valuable in gaining this information.

George Seber
Well, thank you.

01:21:29 (end of audio)