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Interview with: Jack Heard
Interviewed by: Louis Marchiafava
Date: November 12, 1974
Archive Number: OH 074
LM: 00:09 Sheriff Heard, when you were chosen for police of the HPD you were a sergeant.
JH: That is correct.
LM: Can you tell us something about your selection as police chief? There was a great deal of controversy at that time. They couldn’t quite find a man who they wanted as police chief, and later on you were appointed. I would like to know what was some of the maneuvering in that situation.
JH: Well, number one, I guess the most surprised person in the world—well, 2 people was my wife and myself. I’ll try to be very brief in covering this, but there had been somewhat of a scandal in the police department, which history will bear out and so forth. And in the conversation or in the selection and search or whatever it was, there was quite a bit of speculation as to who would do this and when and what, and I had been working on a project at the time. The King and Queen of Greece were coming in and I had been working with the state department as a sergeant of police in preparing this. It was quite a detailed function and so forth, and as a result I was in and out of city hall quite a bit. I’m just assuming—and I later heard, of course, this is what occurred—through that visitation and so forth and through this report that I prepared, somebody made the remark one day, “Well, there’s a future chief of police.” This is all second-hand you understand. And then they consulted with 1 or 2 individuals over at the police department there, and this seems how my name got kicked into the pot so to speak. And then I had, of course, graduate work and I had an academic background at the time and so forth. And out of the clear blue one Saturday morning—I’ll never forget because I was supposed to take my wife shopping—I received a call from the mayor’s office—not the mayor but the mayor’s office—and they said that the mayor wanted to talk to me. And I, of course, assumed it was on this other thing and I took my briefcase and went on down. And while there, this conversation came up and I was asked would I take the job. And I of course said no. And then a better part of the morning passed nearly to noon and they finally—I won’t say convinced me, but there were certain things that I felt necessary that they had to agree to as to who was going to run the place first. And then I finally agreed to take it after I discussed it with my wife. So I might say I went to work as sergeant, and there was a special called meeting of city council that day, and I was chief of police all of the sudden. But one of the primary things was, of course, that I—who’s going to run it. And I’ll say this, they kept their agreement. I ran the place, and so I don’t regret it. I learned a lot, and I think I made some improvements historically as well administrative changes. The fact is, some of the procedures that they’re still using I instituted—started to institute over there, they haven’t changed much.
LM: 03:33 Which procedures are those?
JH: Oh, I had your basic concept of the organization of the departments as they use today—you know, you’re various divisions of departments. I changed those and started those and they haven’t changed all these years. They’re about the same, there’s not much difference in them. A few minor changes here and there, but basically it’s the same even down to the uniform they’re wearing. I had changed the uniform back then and they’re still wearing the same thing—hasn’t changed much.
LM: How were you received as police chief? Was there much dissension in the department?
JH: There was a little in some areas, particularly some certain individuals, not as a group. I hate to use the word older heads, but they were individuals who had been there. They weren’t necessarily in years, but of course they outstripped me in rank. And one day I’m a sergeant, the next I’m running the place. There was a little resentment in this area, but—and I had to step on some toes. And frankly I think I was tried. In other words, see if I would stand up—which I did of course. And it took a few strong, strenuous disciplinary actions to convince them that I meant business, but it didn’t take very long for this to be accomplished. Now, amongst the rank and file of the men on the lower level, of course, I really never had any particular problem. You always have certain administrative problems in an organization that large, but, by and large, I really didn’t have too many problems. I mean, you always have some, but after they found out who was going to run it—there used to a joke around there. They’d say, “Well, I’d like to see Captain Smith or Captain Jones.” “Well, his office is right down there.” Or “Inspector so-and-so.” They’d say, “Where’s the chief.” “Oh, Jack’s down there.” It used to be kind of a—oh, I won’t say a joke necessarily, but I’ve always been known by the name Jack—still am. And I even have some of these prisoners around here, “Well, there goes old Jack.” They don’t say it to my face of course, but really I don’t consider that any derogatory. Really, I kind of feel like it’s somewhat of a compliment actually rather than anything derogatory.
LM: There was one particular division which appeared to cause some difficulties and that was the Subversive Squad. Can you tell me something about that? What was the purpose of it?
JH: Yes, I had to bust that up. The—I’ll give you a little historic background. The first 2 individuals assigned to intelligence work in the City of Houston’s Police Department was myself and a man by the name of George Bell—now deceased—Detective Bell. At that time, he was close to retirement. He was probably one of the best report writers I’ve ever run across in my life—this guy knew how. He was an excellent investigator. He wasn’t necessarily good about catching a thief out here, but he was a good investigator. There’s a difference. And I was just a very young man—detective and everything—and, of course, he taught me a lot. This is when intelligence work was first beginning on a local level in the United States. The Department of Public Safety in Austin had 3 people, we had 2. And from there, then this squad and or division—whatever you want to call it—grew. Well, I got out of it and I went on into other fields. And it began to grow, but it became a political issue during the so-called investigation by federal authorities and narcotics division. And there was a lot of personalities involved and so forth. They continued on and I had to disband the thing, although it had done some good work. But there was just too many personalities involved—which was very unfortunate. And as a result, I had to disband it because it had become known as a Subversive Squad investigating other police officers—which really they weren’t—but you could not absolve that. So as a result it was a function that had to be stopped and curtailed and began completely anew in different faces and different everything—which we were able to accomplish and stop this. But like I say, unfortunately there were some fine people assigned to it that had to go in other directions because of the atmosphere around it and so forth. And I just had to call a halt to everything and start from scratch on that. But it had become a local political thing and personalities involved and personalities that took offense to certain things. And so I felt it best just to start from scratch again—which is what I did.
LM: 08:20 Were the charges justified? Were they indeed spying on their fellow officers?
JH: No, no. They were not. There were investigations made in connection with a narcotics investigation now, but then everybody was investigating that. I mean, the federals—you name it, everybody had a hand in that. But as far as a direct accusation that was the implications, no. They worked on the narcotics investigation, yes. But they had hands full enough with the other things not going around trying to find what the other fellow officers were doing. It was—an atmosphere that existed was very bad, and the only way I could correct it was stop it, period. In other words, just wash the black board and start all over. Unfortunate way to have to do things but sometimes you have to.
LM: Was there much political involvement in the police at that time—in the police department?
JH: 09:17 Oh, yes there was. Over this narcotics thing—was definitely involved because here you had a chief of police, you had a man commit suicide, you had another officer that was involved in narcotics with a prostitute. I mean, it was quite, deeply involved. Most of the people are dead or gone now, involved in this. So yes, there was some—definitely individuals that were actually involved, as well as some federal agents were involved. And then, of course, it became a political issue because it became a news media field day. I mean, every day there was something different that you could write about. And so, as a result, it became a political issue—there’s no question about that, certainly. But the rank and file of the department, few individuals were involved. But as a whole, most of them just wanted to stop it and get out from under the heat and the limelight and go back to working correctly. So this had to be my first aim, is bring things back to a norm. And that was my, I guess, first job that I had to do.
LM: How successful were you?
JH: I think pretty good. Of course, I may be a little prejudiced there now, but it wasn’t too long before things were back working smoothly and individuals were doing their job. And we made a few change—administrative changes—here and there that I think helped. The robbery division, they had never had one of those before and I started that, which they still continue. We began to solve some crimes, we began to cut down on the number of robberies and so forth. And so I think highly successful. I can’t complain. Of course, nothing’s ever perfect now, but the morale picked up. We were able to get some additional equipment and, of course, I’m a bug on that now. If I’m not before city council, I’m before the county commissioner’s asking for something to do something with. I’ve never been bashful about that. And so yes, I think we were successful. I think the records is the best way to judge that. I would just say, go back and look at the records and make a comparison.
LM: What led to your leaving the department?
JH: Oh, I was currently—O. B. Ellis, who was then director of the prisons, had been looking for somebody. He had had a heart attack and the prison board had instructed him to go find someone to help run that thing and so forth. And the choice finally narrowed down between a man by the name of Walter Dunbar—who I happen to know very well, who’s now in New York with the parole system up there. At that time he was with the prison system in California. And the choice narrowed down between Walter Dunbar and myself. And so one day, O. B. Ellis came into my office. I had never met the man, never seen him before in my life, and he was kind of an abrupt sort of individual. And he says, “I’m busy, you’re busy and there’s no use me wasting my time or your time. I want to hire you.” And that’s how the conversation started. It was some months later before I finally agreed to go with the TDC, which I saw as a monetary advancement—I mean, let’s be honest about it. I thought it might be good for my family. I also saw a personal advantage in background and experience that I never got anywhere else. And so I took it and I don’t regret it a bit. I learned a lot, and then, of course, I wound up where I am now.
LM: What were your essential duties?
JH: 12:59 At the prison system?
LM: At the prison system, yes.
JH: Oh, well I was just, you might say, in charge of everything. I mean, I had all the business, all the security—just anything that had to do with running the entire 14-unit prison system I had. I had a real quick learning period because I went there in August and in February Mr. Ellis was in a very, very serious automobile accident. And in fact, he wasn’t even expected to live. And for months and months and months he wasn’t even out of bed. So for the first year there, I ran that thing by myself. You might say just overnight I’m sitting there learning how, and from August to the first of the year I’m just more or less feeling my way around, and then all of the sudden I have the whole thing thrust on me. So I had to learn quick—I didn’t have much time. So that was a good experience too. It seems like every time I get anything its crisis involved. (laughs)
LM: What was your view of the Texas prison system?
JH: Well, I think it’s one of the best. O. B. Ellis took this thing, when it was probably one of the worst in the nation, and brought it up by its bootstraps to, I think, one of the best. I think they’ve got a lot of accomplishments up there. Of course, prisons are prisons now—you understand that? It has good points and bad points. There’s a lot of controversy as to whether you should have prisons. I say that the only solution to that is to not have people. There are a certain amount of people that have to be confined. It’s a harsh brutal thing to say that there’s certain numbers of people that should not have their freedom, but it’s a fact of life. I mean, you can’t get away from it. There’s certain individuals—fortunately the percentage is not as high as most theorize—but there’s certain people that just cannot and will not adapt to the morals of the community in which they live and are going to commit crimes, and something has to be done about them. Hitler executed them, but then along with that he executed a lot of the innocent too. I don’t believe in this. But there are certain individuals I think that you have to confine. Historically, if you go back and look, you’ll find that prison and prison procedures and/or criminology have a religious base. Who were the first ones to operate prisons in the country? The Quakers—a religious group. So historically, religion or religious bodies and prisons have gone hand in hand. I don’t say it’s a substitute for religion or that there’s no other way to do things, but 25% should never get out, another 25% don’t belong there. The broad 50% in the middle, this is the group that you gamble with at rehabilitation procedures—we’ll operate on and give some—well, let’s say some chance of correcting and/or helping these people get straightened out. So you’re really only talking about a 50% gamble. The rest, 25% on one end you can’t do anything with and the other 25% you don’t have to. And so as a result, it’s not as big a gamble. But I think basically we have a good system here.
LM: 16:36 Well, what led you into the sheriff’s race?
JH: Well, it’s kind of a long story, really, on this thing. Some 4 years ago actually—prior to me running—I was approached on this and that the current sheriff then was going to retire. Oh, I guess you might say a year or 2 passed from when the people had contacted me on it. And then they said, “No, he’s going to stay one more term. At the end of the term, then we’d like to talk to you again.” So they did come down after that and said, “We’d like you to run again, come down.” I had known this man for many, may years. My father gave him his first job, so it wasn’t like a stranger or anything like that. I made a personal trip right to this office right here to find out was he going to retire, and the answer was yes and so forth. So his friends and my friends and everybody else said, “Well, he’s going to step out.” So anyway I went ahead and made my move and so forth, and it was pretty well—I wouldn’t say planned, but it wasn’t a secret. But yet, at the time, it was not a public thing, and even the date of me announcing was selected. The news media was aware of all this. We didn’t try to keep it a secret anyway—which was July 4th by the way. And then some month or so later, then or course, he said he is going to run—which, kind of, was not the man’s decision but his family’s decision to do this. And of course you know the results. And I guess—why did I do it? Well, number one, I think it was another challenge. We had reached a point at the prison system where I thought there was a plateau reached and I wanted a new challenge, I guess. I mean, I thrive on this, and my wife always says, “Why can’t you find something easy instead of taking on a load every time?” And so, as a result then, I decided to come on down here and got into the race. I had never run for political office before and I had never been really, deeply interested in politics particularly. Of course, you always are in public life—now don’t misunderstand me—but there’s a certain amount of it you’ve got to get involved in. But it was a challenge and I wanted to do it, and I did and was successful and now here we are.
LM: The newspapers have stated that you had a great deal of backing which helped you out, of course, financially. How does one go about getting the support? How did you get your support?
JH: 19:19 Well, we liked—the only way I know to describe it is a snowball thing. We had quite a bit of support, but then you got to remember that there was a number of people looking for somebody to run. I didn’t really have to go out and solicit funds as such. Most of the funds were of smaller amounts. I didn’t have very many large amounts. Of course, this is all a matter of public record, so it can be verified. But most of my amounts were $25 to $100—somewhere in that area. Now, I had a few—just a handful—of $500, and a very small number of $1000—I’m talking about a single contribution. They’re fairly hard to get now, I’ll tell you, for a local race. But most of mine were the small number, but the volume was there. Once it got started and once the campaign got started, then the people came in. I think this is one of the things that helped us win was the fact that we had people walk into the campaign headquarters and say, “I would like to make a $25 contribution to the campaign.” And like I say, this can all be verified. And I think this is what helped us because we got a lot of volunteer workers. We had no paid helpers in the entire campaign, period. Everybody—well, I take it back now, we had one lady there who was paid but she wasn’t paid by us. These people wanted to help and they just loaned us her. But you know what I mean, it was this type of thing—clerical type work, typist. And so it was this type of thing that we had, and I think that the amount of money collected and everything we—of course, don’t misunderstand me now, we wanted the campaign to run on and we asked for money, but we didn’t have to go out and knock on doors as such. And every time someone would say, “What can we do?” “Well, you can help us work—volunteer work—or you can make a contribution.” This was the approach we used. But the vast majority of ours were small amounts, which I think helps because any time—if you invest $10 in something, even if it’s at a race track, you’re going to pull for that horse a little harder than you would if you didn’t have anything to bet. So I mean, it’s the same sort of approach—that these people were putting money a horse’s nose, so to speak, and I think this encouraged them to work. And I think it paid off. I think the results of the election—the percent—will show that.
LM: 21:50 When a man runs for political office, usually he’s always approached by various political factions attempting to get his allegiance. Were you ever approached in this manner?
JH: No, I was not oddly enough. We were approached by various political factions saying we want to help you get elected—if you want to put it this way—but we had a very—we were very fortunate in having a very, very large cross section. For example, in the youth area, one particular school I had 35 volunteers. They were on their own and they did work. There was no money involved there. At the same time then, I had other groups that would be primarily—we’ll say very conservative political group, as far individuals were concerned, who worked just as hard. The fact is they worked together. So I was never approached from any particular faction or group saying, “We are going to support you because we want you to do this afterwards.” I was very fortunate on that. This does happen now, definitely.
JH: But we were very, very lucky. I didn’t have to—well, I made no commitments and one thing I didn’t promise was jobs. Of course, you’re not supposed to do it by law, but we all know this will happen. But I was extremely cautious on this. And Chief Gus George—a chief executive officer that I have—if I was going to promise anybody a job, it would have been that man. But I can honestly say, and he can honestly say—and we were very cautious about this. I can honestly get up and say, “I have promised no one a job, including him.” And we were very cautious about this that I didn’t—not only didn’t promise him a job, didn’t even discuss it with him because we wanted to be sure that we could hold to this statement. And we were able to do it and still able to do it.
LM: Now, the sheriff’s department, no part of it is under civil service?
JH: No. Uh-hunh (negative). No. Uh-hunh (negative).
LM: Do you think this a weakness in the department— (both talking at once; unintelligible)
JH: Yes, I intend to ask for it. We’re working on it, yes. I won’t say it’s a weakness, I think that’s the wrong word. I think it’s an unfairness. A God-like situation is created and I can hire or fire anybody I want here sitting at this desk. My whims of waking up in the morning could affect a man’s livelihood, and I think this is unfair. So it’s not a weakness, I think that’s the wrong word. It’s an unfairness. If my secretary or so forth—somebody made me mad and I fired them, that’s it, they have no recourse whatsoever. So I am planning on—yes—trying to do something with this. And the fact is we’re working on it quietly now. And I believe in it and we are going to get it. If it’s humanly possible for me to get it, we’re going to get it. But like I say, the word weakness is not so much important as unfairness to these people who—really, a man down at the patrolmen level shouldn’t have to worry whether I brushed my teeth or whether I’m mad that morning or not—as to my whims—because I don’t think anybody is God and I don’t think they should act like it. There’s an old saying about that, that these people who walk on water do pretty well until they put their second foot down, then they tend to sink. So I’ve never tried it.
LM: Was there a large turnover when you took office for any reasons whatsoever?
JH: 25:27 There was a fairly good turnover prior to me taking office. From the time of the election to the time I was sworn in, there was a number who left. I didn’t have to fire them or anything like that. They found other jobs and left. It was quite a bit, particularly in some of the higher echelons. And it was pretty simple, they knew they couldn’t work under my philosophies and my way of doing things. And so I didn’t have to tell them, they left on their own. They knew what I stood for, they knew me—I mean, we weren’t strangers. And as a result all I had to do was—if anybody asks me I say, “No, I’m going to do this,” and it didn’t take long for word to get around. And so really I didn’t have to do much changing around—minor, but basically no.
LM: What were the conditions in the sheriff’s department when you took office?
JH: Antiquated is the best way to describe it. We’re trying to do things now that should have been started 15 years ago, not just in the jail or detention facilities, but other areas. In all fairness to the prior incumbent, he had let a number of people—who I think he placed trust in—they had not done their job properly and they had become narrow in their views. They had no new innovations or nothing modern or anything. The same thing that was being done was being done 20 years ago. The hodgepodge of procedural—administrative procedures—were just unbelievable. Everybody had a little kingdom of their own, everybody had a little desk, everybody had a little corner. I don’t believe in this. I took the desks away and put them outside. If you just look out across there now and you can how I’m making changes still. And this was—I think the biggest problem I had was beating down customs. I still have a little bit of it I have to watch every now and then, but they’re slowly catching on. It’s—I think they’re slowly getting the vision and the image that we wanted to create.
LM: You mentioned just a moment ago that there’s a difference in the philosophy of law enforcement between you and the former sheriff. Can you specify a little?
JH: 27:36 Well, yeah I think so. I mean, of course, I’m not a boots and saddle man. Instead of having a pair of cow horns hanging up there, I’ve got an oil painting of bluebonnets. I don’t have anything against cowboy boots—I have several pair myself—but I believe in complete modern day procedures. I consider myself an administrator first, although I can investigate a crime as well as anybody, but I don’t think I should. I think it’s my duty to operate and run and set the policies and let people down there do the work on this level. Fortunately, I have a large selection of criminal friends. That may sound odd, but you get information this way, of course. And I think it’s the method—and I want to use modern methods rather than the old boots and saddle type of thing, which is what we existed under. I believe in scientific procedures. The old day of getting information by taking everybody to the windmill is gone—I mean, this is the way they used to talk about it. And you have to make a case now on facts, you can’t make a case on theory. And if we don’t have a correct offense report, if you don’t have a good case, you’re going to lose it in court. So this is costly to the taxpayers, this is costly to the system of criminal justice that we live under. And I’d rather turn 10 guilty ones loose than put one innocent in. And the old method, you’ve already put them in jail—they might beat the rap but they can’t beat the ride is not a good theory. So as a result, I think it’s a philosophy of modern day version of law enforcement and the manner in which you do things—investigative procedures. Everybody laughs about old Sherlock Holmes stories, but oddly enough you go back and look at his theories it was through investigative techniques that he did things, not through the other. And although he was way beyond our time, back in history so to speak, if you read his stories carefully, really his philosophy was modern day law enforcement is what we should be doing. And the old peaked hat business was, kind of, a laughing stock, but read between the lines sometime and I think you’ll see what I’m talking about.
LM: (sirens going by; unintelligible) —in the papers that when you took office, you couldn’t find a budget from the prior sheriff.
JH: There was none.
LM: There was—
JH: There was no records. Fact is, we found some individuals on the payroll—I don’t mean they were on there illegally now, they were working—and that the only thing that they had was a payroll card. There was not even a file on the individual—a personnel file or application or anything like that. And a lot of the individuals who had worked here—other than what information in the files at the auditor’s office had—there were no files left here on a lot of individuals that had previously worked here, period. They had all disappeared.
LM: I’d like to learn something about the relationship between the sheriff’s office and the HPD constable’s office. Is there much cooperation?
JH: 31:02 Well, now the constable’s office, let’s take that first because you have a different type of function there and the relationship is not a requirement. The constable’s office serves civil papers. So there’s a degree of cooperation necessary on our civil division only. Beyond that it’s not required, it’s not a necessity. But we don’t have any problems there, I don’t mean that. The cooperation is good, it’s just that the necessity for it is very limited. They don’t deal in criminal cases of any type. They don’t work in any other courts except the JP courts. They furnish the bailiffs for those, we furnish all the rest of them. They handle no prisoners or rarely will they handle a prisoner. So their contact with our jail and things of this nature is limited. So really the degree of cooperation there is only that that the law requires and we get along fine with all of them—have no problems there whatsoever. Now, in the police departments you have a different level because you’ve got to say police departments—not one. You’re talking about the City of Houston and this is an error that many people make. Twenty-one municipalities in this county—Seabrook, Texas has a police department, Bellaire, West University Place, Tomball, all of the Humble. All of these are cities, all of these have their own police department. So when you talk about your degree of cooperation, you have to go further than the city of Houston. In the smaller communities, we have to help them a lot because they do not have detectives. We have to help them with their crimes and their investigations and so forth, using our detective forces and some of our patrol units. Although they’re an incorporated area and we normally don’t patrol those, but we have to help them. Now, the larger cities like Pasadena and the City of Houston and so forth, we work with them but do not necessarily have to provide these extra services to them. We work with them but on a cooperative deal rather than support. You take a small community like, let’s say Tomball, they have a small force, no detective, their equipment is limited. Now, these areas we have to help a lot. And of course, we have just opened up a substation out in Tomball. We even hold their prisoners for them, see. So when you talk about cooperation you have to—what level are we talking about and where? Now, the City of Houston, of course, it’s a cooperative thing there rather than them helping us or vice versa. We probably give them more help than they do us because if they go into the county on their cases we’ve got to go with them or we have to help them. So on the serving of our criminal warrants and things like this, we provide more service to them than they do to us. But generally speaking, rank and file wise, we get along well.
LM: 33:52 What is the relationship between self and Chief Lynn?
JH: Oh, I don’t deal in personalities. He has his problems, and as far as the official thing, if the department needs something they get it. I mean, we don’t have any problems, but I never deal publicly in personalities with an individual of that nature.
LM: And what about the relationship between the sheriff’s office and the mayor’s office? Are there any conflicts there that develop with you holding a political office and the mayor is office holding a political office?
JH: Well, you could have political conflicts there, however, the paths of the 2 offices cross practically nil because that’s an administrative procedure dealing with the government of the City of Houston and the sheriff’s department is one dealing on the county level in law enforcement and detention services. So we’ll say it would have to be on a personality or an individual basis rather than official basis because there’s very little contact. Most of our contact of that nature is with the City of Houston Police Department rather than the mayor’s office.
LM: I’d like to devote just a few moments to the reforms you have instituted at the county jail. What condition did you find the prison in when you took office?
JH: Archaic, impossible, lousy, dirty, filthy, about as bad as you could find. But so far, we’ve been able to improve it up—we’re only lousy now. That may sound a little bad, but the fact remains that it is true. We’ve—we’re making some progress, there’s no question about that. We’re making quite a bit of progress. First of all, we’re trying to meet the dictates of the state law 5115—which we’re not doing by the way—but then this is public statement I have made time and time and time again. We need money and it’s going to take a lot of it. I’ve been asking for it for 2 years and I’m fixing to ask for it again. I’m not bashful about that. We’re terribly undermanned—terribly. We’re running about 1 employee to 50 prisoners. The average in our states is about 1 to 9. We don’t even come anywhere close. The federal runs about 1 to 6. You run a jail, a prison, an institution by adequate, properly trained, supervisory people. Now, I use the word supervisory not in that I mean that everybody has to be a lieutenant or captain, but when you are supervising anyone you become a supervisor. So every one of our deputies, even the lowest ranking man, is a supervisor. You can’t get a way from it because you’re supervising people, their care, custody, and so forth. And we are woefully undermanned on this. Equipment wise, repair wise, and sanitation wise we’re terrible. We’re licking it now, but you’ve got to remember we only took office January 1, 1973; a new budget doesn’t become effective until April. So you’re talking about that time before you start spending any money. Well, if you know what delivery problems are today, we ordered stuff last year, for example, to start our agricultural program in like April and May that were delivered this January—this past January. So when you talk about improvements, most of the improvements we have we really didn’t get until this year although we started on them last year. You run 6 months to a year behind and you can’t get away from it. Our educational and vocational training program, which we got started last year, really began last October. So we’re only running from a year now, if you want to say. I think we’ve got one of the finest in the country. Fine enough that the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration came down and offered us a grant to put in a program—aerobics program. Asked us to take it of all the county jails in the United States.
38:01 The LEAA also came down and offered us this national clearinghouse report—which I have right here—that they want us to take a program or a study—which they’re undergoing at the present time—here that is going to enable us to project into the future exactly what it is that we’re going to need. This is a very fine study. This is one that’s going to be extremely important to us. It’s going to be one that we can live with, one that we can project and tell the commissioners and the people in Harris County, “This is what we need, this is what we must have.” It’s not going to be a guesswork type of situation. It’s one that I think will show far-reaching results. We have a new religious program started here. We have a training program with the Houston Community College that we’re training individuals in vocational work, and when they leave here the community college follows through on this. This is something that’s never been done before. I mentioned the agricultural program. They say, “Well, that isn’t so important.” Well, it is too because our feeding program, our food service program, here is now up to the standards it should be. Our sanitation program is making progress on it. It still has some further to go, but we need to meet the state law on this. So I’m not bashful when it comes to asking for these things, but we have a long way before we get it and it’s going to take us some time. But I think that we’re somewhere between 30% and 40% along in the programs that we want to do in the detention facilities. Because everybody says, “Well, you’re a county jail.” They forget that the rehab center out there—or so-called rehab center, I don’t like that word—that’s a jail too. And we operate jails at La Porte, Baytown, Spring, Tomball, Humble, these are all jails too that we operate. So when you talk about jails, everybody thinks of the downtown jail and the rehab or as you call it. It’s not; you’ve got to look at the overall picture on the thing. When we came here, you had no mattresses, you had no clothing, you had nothing. There was nothing here, and it’s taken us all this time to get anywhere close to where we are now. And we still have a long way to go, but we’re going to reach it. And we’re going to meet the standards that are set forth, but we’ve got to have the money, we’ve got to have the equipment, we’ve got to have the manpower. I’m, of course, using grants quite a bit. I’m not one bashful about using federal grants. I’m using them for everything I can get my hands on. And we have a number of good grants that are going, and I think we will have some more as time goes along.
LM: 40:53 Are prison bosses still being used?
JH: Now, you’re talking about convicts—
LM: Convicts, yes.
JH: —the old building tender thing. No, they’re not. This is a wrong term. They say prison bosses, they say building tenders, road tenders, and so forth. Not in the connotation that you’re talking about, no. This is the old head strummer (s/l) (41:11), this is the word. The people that mete out the punishment and so forth, no. Oh boy, this was something we had to lick hard because you have to remember that the ones that become indoctrinated on this most are not the prisoners but the employees. In other words, I didn’t whip this man, they got in a fight and this prisoner whipped him. This is the way they meted out their punishment, and it’s such an easy way and such a simple thing to get in the habit of. You’ve got no lawsuit there because you didn’t do anything. I can’t help if it 2 guys got in a fight. So the people you have to change first are the employees before you can change the prisoners, and this is the thing we had to fight most. We still have it crop up every now and then. You don’t—oh, I don’t guess you’ll ever get it out of everybody’s mind. But we, of course, are using a very high-selective degree of personnel selection and trying to get the proper people on this thing. And this is another we’re fighting now and I’m asking the Commissioners Court for it next time. A deputy in the jail makes less money than a deputy working on a street. A sergeant in the jail makes less money than just a plain deputy working on the street. They’ve always been second-class positions. And for 2 years now—and I’m going again—trying to get all the salaries equalized where they all make the same salary. You shouldn’t pay a man working less in a jail because if anything he ought to be getting a little more.
JH: But actually the fair thing is to have them equal and this is what I’m striving for, and I’m going to keep striving for it until I get it.
LM: Have you had to discharge many prison personnel?
JH: 42:46 Some, yes. Uh-hunh (affirmative). I don’t believe in discharging when you can salvage. Salvage first, it’s easy to fire somebody. That’s the easiest thing in the world, but have you accomplished anything? Correct them, disciplining themselves, change their positions; maybe you find the wrong niche on the thing. Maybe you— (recording interrupted)
LM: Have you found much cooperation in securing funds from the Commissioners Court for these purposes?
JH: Yes, generally. And in fairness to these men over there, you’ve got to remember this, that—and I’ve preached this publicly and so forth. I’ve never—everything I say to them I say in their presence over there. They’ve never been presented with requests before. Here in the past, they just went over there with a budget and whatever was given them nobody asked for anything. Nobody ever presented an argument to them. Nobody ever gave them facts and figures. They were not used to this, and this is in fairness to those men. So I’ve had to sell them and show them the procedures and what is necessary and what’s required under the law and so forth, which these men have never been given before. They’ve never been presented with these problems because nobody wanted to bring them up. They buried them, the old ostrich technique. And so as a result, you might say it’s been an educational process on the part of everyone concerned. And, of course, I’ve never been bashful about asking for things in any of my jobs any where. And so everything that I have asked for there—I haven’t got it all now, don’t misunderstand me—but everything I have, I have justified and have a record of it, and I think eventually we’ll get it. But you’ve got to remember that this was kind of a shock treatment on a part of these people for somebody to come in and ask for just some money and lay it on the line and say, “This is what I need and this is what I’ve got to have,” when they were never faced with this before, see. So it was a little bit of a newness to them they had to get accustomed to also.
LM: To what degree is the municipal government responsible to the operations, the financing of the county prison?
JH: None. Absolutely none. No, there’s no funds or anything like that whatsoever, although we take all their prisoners. Everybody that’s arrested in Harris County—whether it’s state, federal. Now, the federal does contribute, yes. They give us $8 per day per prisoner, and this is a new contract I just renegotiated here recently. And $2.50 of that comes back to us to use in jail improvements, which has never existed before. But they’re the only ones that contribute. But if you’re arrested in any community or federal, state, city, whatever it is, we get them. In other words, until they make bond or if they make bond and so forth. But for a misdemeanor case, county court case—I’m not talking about city ordinances now, we don’t get those—or felony, we get them here. We average a little over 2000 prisoners a day which is more than a lot—some state prisons have.
LM: You may have answered my next question, which is where is the emphasis of the sheriff’s department? Is it on the civil or the criminal aspects?
JH: 45:56 Both, I can’t eliminate either one. The sheriff’s department is a very peculiar organization and the public doesn’t understand it. We’re a law enforcement agency with routine police patrol like any city does. We’re a civil function for the civil courts in Harris County. We’re a criminal function for the criminal courts—all the criminal warrants. We have to have a detective bureau. We’re a combination of courts, police, detention, and civil service—civil service, I mean, I’m talking about the civil courts—at the same time. There’s not another organization like it anywhere except us. We cross every path, every phase of law enforcement, every phase of service to the criminal justice system that can possibly exist. The constables have a certain limited function, City of Houston has a certain limited function, DPS has one, FBI has one, yet we cross them all. And it’s a phase or a facet of law enforcement that’s so broad that people really don’t understand it because they only see certain parts of it at a given time. The amount of criminal warrants we operate with here—here’s one that’s really given us a problem. We serve roughly 100 mental warrants a month. It takes 43% of our time of our personnel in the criminal warrant division to serve mental warrants. Now, this is something that most people—I’m trying to get rid of this or get them to give me some more personnel because we can’t catch the criminals when we have 2 men tied up serving a civil warrant which is a mental warrant, see. And these are not criminals, these are sick people, yet we have to go get them. And it’s a phase that people don’t even know about, and it’s such a broad thing. And you say, “Well, what do you do, you concentrate on civil or criminal?” We have to concentrate on both, plus, we have to concentrate on detention and a treatment program and a medical program. Just sit down and remember how many meals we have to serve a day. Three meals a day for 2000 people, that’s a small town. I mean, this is—we have to house them, clothe them, medical facilities, dental work, sanitation. Just our laundry alone is terrific. Two thousand customers would be a pretty good sized laundry wouldn’t it? We’ve got this every day. And we need another laundry, we’ve only have one, but the rehab has to do for both places. We’re wearing out that equipment trying to take care of both areas.
LM: 48:27 Are most of the demands, requests made upon your men for criminal reasons or for civil? I know you’re handling both here, but the greatest drain of time, is it the—?
JH: Uh-hunh (affirmative). Yeah, because there’s more people assigned to that. Percentage wise, if you narrow it down to the demand upon the number of people assigned to civil, it will be equal by comparison. But your work is different, so you have to separate it. When you say demand what are you talking about? It might be as difficult to catch someone we served a divorce paper on as it is a criminal, see. This is—or somebody who doesn’t want to be sued. It can be just as difficult, see. So when you say criminal as versus civil that’s not a fair comparison because it could be just as—but percentage wise, the work load, there’s not much difference.
LM: When you first took office you stated that you were going to make some drastic changes in the narcotic division—
JH: Oh, we did!
LM: —and the criminal intelligence.
JH: We did. Completely reorganized that. I won’t tell you where, but our criminal intelligence is not even located in this building anymore. I moved them out completely. They don’t even come down here. It’s ridiculous to have these men coming in and out of here through the front door. I mean, just forget about it. Our narcotics and so forth, actually have a part of the intelligence division. In other words, I have combined them into one because they’re so closely related. I have some that do nothing but intelligence work or undercover work and others that do both. Now, we have an office downtown here for our—where we work our narcotics out of and so forth, but our intelligence work—what we call our true intelligence work—they’re not even housed here. It’s actually—I have combined these and modernized them and, of course, got new people. We’ve trained some bright, young men in there. When I say bright, young men I mean those people who were college trained in criminology or law enforcement work, have degrees, and we’ve trained them in the practical aspect of it. And we—I’m just real proud of our recruiting program. The biggest problem I have is not being able to hire all the ones I want because we have on the waiting list now some real qualified people. So our whole concept of intelligence and narcotics has been changed in that I have them combined into one unit because it’s such a closely related thing. And you say, “Well, he works on intelligence.” Well, what is intelligence? It’s crime, that’s all it is. Is this going on or that going on? Well, in this day and time there’s so much of narcotics related into crime that it’s a hand-in-hand thing, so I’ve combined them. Now, you get more mileage out of your manpower this way too. They say, “Well, I don’t work on anything but narcotics.” “I don’t work anything but vice.” I have one theory, they all got the same kind of badges I have and they all have the same authority, they all ought to work on everything. That’s what they’re here for.
LM: 51:35 Dealing with narcotics—I just want to jump back for just one moment with cooperation between the departments. Is there good cooperation between the HPD and your department on this narcotics question?
JH: Yes, however, we do most of ours with the federal because of our county-wide jurisdiction. We do a lot with the city, but most of ours is with the federal and the state because of our large jurisdiction. Now, if there’s a case working with the city, that’s connected with, a city case inside the city limits, of course we do. But yes, there’s good cooperation there.
LM: What is the training—the minimum training—for your officers?
JH: Well, were drawing up this now—the 370 hours. In other words we’ve just increased—for example, added 2 more weeks to our criminal law section. In other words, the study of criminal law and so forth. And what we’re shooting for is to raise it up to 500 hours is what we’re after. This is what we’re aiming for, and I’m hoping within a year we might have those 500 hours. We just—instead of adding it all at once, we’re just stepping it up. Like just recently we added these 2 more weeks onto criminal law alone—we’re just talking about the district attorney’s office—because this is the key to it, knowledge.
LM: How do you select your officers?
JH: 52:54 Well, they make application like anybody else. And then they are screened and investigated and so forth through our personnel department—which is part of our academy by the way. And then the individual is then said, “Okay, he’s okay,” in the background, the usual bit. We have an opening here and here and here and here. Most of them start in the jail division or in detention division first and then move on out into the other areas depending. But if they move up to detective of something like that, that’s a promotion. In other words, you have to take an exam for that—or sergeant or whatever it is. But as long as it’s in the deputy or category that he can work in patrol and the jail or anywhere.
LM: You do give exams then for promotions?
JH: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Yes. We have 2 coming up this Friday for detective.
LM: Are these oral, written?
JH: They are both—a combination. They’re both.
LM: I know you’re pressed for time and I will just ask you one last question. Do you think your department has achieved professional status as a law enforcement agency at this time?
JH: Yes. Yes, we have, but not to the degree that I want. Of course I’m a stickler on this now, and I’ll probably never be satisfied. If we were perfect today I would find something to improve tomorrow. But yes, I think we have a professional attitude. And in the overall picture, I would say yes, we are a professional organization now. We might have a weak spot here or there—individually I’m speaking of—and, I guess, you’re always going to have this though. But overall I’d say yes, we’re a professional organization.
LM: Looking back from now to the time—during the time when you were chief of police, have there been significant changes in law enforcement in Houston?
JH: Oh, certainly.
LM: In the quality?
JH: 54:46 Oh, in the quality. Oh, I thought you was talking about in laws. Yes, I think so. I mean, there has in this department here. Now, I don’t try to measure other departments as to what they have or don’t have or what they’ve gained at all, but we have.
LM: Is there any points that you wanted to mention that I haven’t asked or covered here, perhaps before closing you’d like to—?
JH: No, I can’t think of any. You’ve been rather thorough, I thought— (laughs)
LM: Thank you.
JH: —on your questions and everything. I hope I’ve just been just as thorough in my answers.
LM: You have, and on behalf of the Houston Metropolitan Archives and Research Center, I would like to thank you for your cooperation.
JH: Thank you, sir.
LM: Thank you.