Richard Kesselus

Duration: 1hr: 34mins
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Interview with: Richard K. Kesselus and Harold E. Ship
Interview by: Louis J. Marchiafava
Date: September 20, 1974
Archive Number: OH090



LM:    00:06  Beginning interview with chief of police, Richard K. Kesselus and assistant chief Harold E. Ship.  Chief, when did you first become associated in law enforcement?

RK:    It was January the 4th, 1965.

LM:    What led you into law enforcement?

RK:    A desire to provide for my wife and myself with a livable wage.  I had no idea that I’d get into law enforcement before that time.  In Beaumont they were the only people that were hiring, which is where I first went to work.

LM:    You started as a patrolman in Beaumont first?

RK:    Yes.

LM:    And you moved to West University Place.

RK:    No.  I moved from Beaumont to San Marcos.  I was in San Marcos about 18 months before I moved to West University.

LM:    So you had a background in law enforcement prior to coming to University Place.

RK:    Nine years, yeah.

LM:    How did you get to be chief?

RK:    (chuckles)  I was asked to come down for an interview, and I came down for the interview and was accepted by the city commission and the city manager.

LM:    Mr. Ship, I understand you’ve been at the department over 30 years.

HS:    Right.  I first went to work in 1941 and became chief in 1944.  And from October 1945 until March 1947 I had a leave of absence—rather, I resigned and came back in March of 1947.

LM:    Uh-hunh (affirmative).  Prior to that time, you served exclusively in West University Place?

HS:    Yes, sir.  That’s right.

LM:    02:18  At present, how many men are on the force here?

RK:    There are 18 commissioned officers.  That includes Chief Ship and myself.  We have four civilian dispatchers and two school crossing guards.  That consists the entire department.

LM:    Where do they receive their training?

RK:    The officers receive their training—  First of all, we need to discuss, I guess, what’s required.  What’s required is they have to put in one year of service and have to go through a basic certification school.  The basic certification school is a training program that’s specified by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education.  This is criminal justice activity from Austin.  In this area, the Harris County Sheriff’s Academy and the College of the Mainland have both a certified training school.  And if we employ an officer who has not been certified, then we have to send them to this certification school.  We send them to that certification school, then after that time we are involved in in-service training programs throughout the year, and these in-service training schools are provided either through the commission, through the Harris County Sheriff’s Academy, or through the College of the Mainland.  We have no formal training for dispatchers nor do we have any formal training for the school crossing guards and thus must rely on on-the-job training.  The officers get a great deal of their experience from on-the-job training too, especially the ones that haven’t been through a basic certification program before we hire them.  Ideally, small departments are more or less forced into activity to get qualified personnel who are already certified because right now we’re talking about an 8-week school that we have to send the officers to.  We’ve got two officers in school right now going through basic certification school, so it hampers us a little bit by having to do without the men for the entire 8-week period of time, plus we must pay their salary while they’re attending the school too.

cue point
[5:04]

 So for that reason, it’s advantageous for small departments to hire people who are already certified but not necessarily restricted.  The two we’ve just hired, one worked his way through the dispatcher’s office until he became 21, and his desire to be a police officer in West University was good enough and his qualifications that we felt he should be given the opportunity to become a police officer here.  The other boy is freshly out of college.  He had his degree in biology and can’t get work anywhere (chuckles), at least in his field, and I think his secondary choice is law enforcement.  In his interviews with myself and the staff of this department, we felt that his desire to become a police officer may be able to override that of becoming a biologist right now, so he was given an opportunity.  He’s a very well-educated person, and I’m happy to report that they’re at the top of the entire class.  As a matter of fact, they’ve both carried 100 averages through the first couple of weeks, and one is still carrying a 100 average, and the other one dropped down to a 90 average.  But I think that speaks well for both of them.

LM:    06:28  I would say so.  This man is a college graduate.  Now, what is the general background of the average officer that’s employed here?

RK:    I think you’ve got to talk about that in the past, present, and future because of the salary range of police officers.  In the past—what, five years, Chief Ship?—salaries have started getting up to, on average—  Let’s talk about five years ago or prior to 1969.  The salaries were so low that you really couldn’t get people that you would like to get.  West University has been blessed with somebody, an administrator and Chief Ship, that we were able to get people who were a little bit above the average.  We do require a high school education equivalent.  All departments require that.  Most departments require more than that now, which will be something we talk about in the future.  But in the past, years ago, naturally, we wanted a big, brawny fellow that could really get out and just handle the people.  Because of the complexities of society, that’s not the case anymore.  We want a person who is in relatively good physical condition, excellent health and relatively good physical condition.  We’d much rather hire a larger framed man because there are cases where you may still have to get out and have a little physical contact from time to time.  But in the last five years, there’s been an increase in demand on a more intelligent person, a person that can get out and do something besides make an arrest, and this is the public relations end to law enforcement.  Fortunately, we’ve got a group of people out here that can do that.  It takes an intelligent person because you deal with so many different factions when you’re in police work.  You deal with the minority groups that are right on the bottom of the ladder.  Adversely, you deal with the executive that’s right on the top of the ladder.  You’ve got to be able to effectively deal with all these people.  And you tell me that doesn’t take a guy that’s got a little something on the ball to be able to effectively do that?  That’s what we look for.  We look for somebody that we feel will be able to deal from the bottom to the top and be able to communicate with them.  And we still just ask for a high school education and we ask that they be 21.  But we would much prefer a man that’s got some college, and a man that’s got some college or a degree is probably going to be considered a lot more strongly than somebody that’s not.  But in talking about that, you have to be very careful and not just look for that degree because so many times you’ll get the guy that doesn’t know how to roll the window up in his car when it rains and he’s sitting there with a master’s degree or something.  So that deals a lot with what you’re going to get.

cue point
[10:05]

LM:  Chief Ship, with 33 years of hindsight, how does it compare now with the type of men and the training that they are receiving with when you first entered law enforcement here?

HS:    Well, of course, it’s an entirely different picture.  One of the best detectives I ever knew couldn’t sign his name.  But like the chief says, it’s not all in the education but, of course, the education helps in presenting yourself to the public.  And really, we had nothing like a certification school.  We had in-service training.  The FBI used to hold a lot of training schools, and the Department of Public Safety had schools.  We tried to send men to those when we could, and sometimes we would even have them here.  Getting back to the education part, the average citizen when he asks us about a specific law, he expects an answer right now.  And you call the district attorney’s office and they have to look it up.  So a man has to be intelligent enough to retain a lot of this knowledge, and there is a tremendous amount of knowledge to retain because of all the different laws you have, both state and federal and city.  So you need a man with a sharp mind, whether he has a degree or whether he doesn’t.  Like the chief says, some of the people with degrees can’t come in out of the rain (laughs) without somebody showing them the building.  It has changed an awful lot.  I know when I went to work out here, I think I was the fourth man on the department, and now we have 18 personnel and it’s grown quite a bit.  The problem has gotten to the point to where 18 men are not enough for us.

LM:    Do you have civil service here?

RK:    No, we do not have civil service in West University.  We attempt to follow the guidelines of the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education, and they somewhat conform to civil service.  Therefore, we try to coordinate much of our activity toward the guidelines of the civil service law, the state civil service law, that is.  We don’t have it constantly.  There are a lot of things that we don’t do that civil service law says we should do.

LM:    Such as?

RK:    13:42  We don’t have as rigorous a program for promotion, and we don’t have to stay as close to the exact guidelines in promotion procedure as civil service does.  The guidelines say, “You do it exactly this way.  You give the test exactly this way.”  You have to have an efficiency reporting system for each officer where he has an efficiency rating that comes out, and this enters into a promotion.  We try to consider efficiency of an officer.  We are giving exams, both written and oral, for promotion.  There is no provision in civil service law for oral examinations.  We in promotion try to mix up civil service law and what the FBI and the Department of Public Safety does so far as their promotions are concerned, which includes an oral examination.  I think it gives a little broader outlook into the man that you’re actually selecting.  So many times under civil service you don’t really get the man best suited for the job, and this was true in Beaumont.  I can think of several circumstances in Beaumont where people who were much more qualified for a specific promotion did not get the promotion, and the basis of that was there was one man that could take the written material, read it and retain it and translate it with an examination, and we didn’t get the man best suited for the job.  We got a man that knew it and had it in his head but he couldn’t apply it.  This is one shortcoming I see with civil service, and possibly it’s going to be revised in the future.

cue point
[15:36]


LM:    Are you generally in favor of instituting civil service in your department?

RK:    I don’t know that it would be the best thing in this department or not.  I don’t think I’ve been here long enough to really intelligently make an intelligent statement on that, because there are a lot of things in this city government that I still haven’t really gotten the reason behind it and fully understand.

LM:    What do you think, Chief Ship?  You’ve come up through the years and have been able to observe quite a bit.

HS:    I feel this way about civil service, that it has its good points and, like anything else, it also has bad points.  For instance, if you get an officer in the department that is undesirable, a lot of times it’s hard to get rid of him.  I particularly don’t like that part of it because you might keep a guy around for a long time that wasn’t doing you any good, and I’ve seen that happen in the Houston department where they’d have a man and they just couldn’t get rid of him.  Still, at the same time, if you have a political situation in a city, it’s very good for the protection of the employee.  I think it’s just a matter of choice, really.  I don’t know all of the civil service law, but that would be my objection to it, that you might get undesirable people that you would have to keep.

LM:    17:43  Without a civil service law, this puts a great deal of responsibility on your shoulders.

RK:    That’s true.

LM:    And what is the reaction of the men to this?  Do you note a sense of insecurity, not knowing if they might have a job tomorrow?

HS:    Not in this department.

RK:    I can see it could very well happen in some other departments, especially departments this size, but that I don’t think has ever been a problem in this department, and I think this is due to the personnel handling by Chief Ship in the past.  He undoubtedly has put a great deal of time and effort into choosing the right people for the job.  And the working conditions in West University are different from other cities, especially in the Greater Metropolitan Houston area.  Naturally, we have crime, we have all types of crime, but we have to have an officer who is a little more oriented toward public relations because of the people that live out here.  At the same time, the officer has actual physical time to get out and be a policeman.  I think Houston has a big problem now with especially their Radio Patrol and Accident Division of not having time to do anything other than be a reporting agency.  I have spoken with their officers.  They come to work, and the guy that they relieve gives him two or three calls that he has backlogged, and when this particular guy gets off of his shift, he’s still got a backlog of two or three calls.  So he goes through the entire day doing nothing but making reports, and you don’t get an opportunity to be a police officer.  Being a small department, the officers get a lot more opportunity to do follow-up work.  They start a case, and if they’ve got something at all to work on in clearing this case, they get the opportunity to continue and work on that case.  It gives them a little more personal satisfaction in having started and completed a job.  That makes for good working conditions.  In the past, and I hope in the future, things haven’t been real strict in West University and especially within the police department.  The officers are given a lot of latitude. 

LM:    In what sense?

cue point
[20:24]


RK:   To get out, first of all, and work on a job.  We don’t get down and say, “You’ve got to do exactly this at exactly this time or just do exactly this.”  We get out and say, “Here’s a job that needs to be done.  See if you can get to work on it.”  They may not do it that day; it may wait until the next day.  Well, I’m not going to jump on their back, and I don’t think Chief Ship is either.  If it’s an urgent matter, we’re going to tell them it’s an urgent matter and it’ll get done immediately.  But the officers get a little latitude, and if they’ve got something else working, they can finish what they’re doing, then come back and get on it later on.  Can you elaborate on that a little more?

HS:    I think this, that speaking of the Houston Accident Division, for instance, we don’t have that much activity here as far as accidents are concerned.  We probably will average 12 or 15 collisions a month, and we don’t have the activity that they do to tie a man up on one particular job.  And consequently, as far as in-service training is concerned, he has a chance to be a more well-rounded police officer than the average man that’s in Houston.  Of course, I know that they switch those officers around from one division to another a lot of times, but they don’t have an opportunity to get a taste of all of it at the same time.

LM:    Less specialization is what you have here.

HS:    Right.

RK:    There is no specialization in a small department.  There just can’t be.  And that helps, and it goes right along with what we’re talking about.  My officer gets an opportunity to taste a little bit of everything.  He might be working on a—hopefully not a murder because we don’t have murder in West University, but it’s feasible that if one happens, he would be involved in it.  The next call that comes out of the hat might be a juvenile disturbance, and he’ll be on that too.  So he gets to work everything.  It might even be a mental case.  We have some of that.  You get an opportunity to do a little bit of everything in a small department.  And not having to worry about getting over there, getting it down on paper, doing something immediately and then going to another call is a great advantage because an officer knows that he can get over there and he can properly handle the call.  He can put the time that’s needed on the call.  They don’t abuse it out here.  They don’t get out and spend an hour and a half on something that should take 15 minutes.  If it takes 15 minutes, that’s how long they’re there.  If they feel it needs an hour and a half’s work, any particular call, they know they’ve got the latitude to sit there and work on it for an hour and a half.  This helps.  They’re not under a great deal of pressure in making their calls.  They’re not under a great deal of pressure from the supervisors and being strictly supervised.  They get an opportunity to be a person, an individual, and then an opportunity to be a police officer too.  I think that many small departments are that way.  I think it is probably a little bit better in West University than it is in other cities that I’ve been in.  San Marcos’s police department is relatively the same size as West University Police Department, and there’s just a world of difference between the two.  The officers are better in West University and people that apply are more qualified.  The people that put in applications tell you a little bit about your police department in the first place.  Naturally, you’re going to get the everyday, run-of-the-mill applications, but on top of that you’ll get people coming here from other agencies that want to go to work here.  And the reason they want to go to work here is the things that we’re talking about.  It’s a good place to work.  Naturally, the salary is not as great as it is in some large area or some large police department or some very wealthy area but, still, it’s maybe sufficient so this guy can say, “Well, I can make it on that, and I want to work there because it’s a good place to work.”  And evidently, this feeling goes out through the various police departments via the personnel in the department, because I don’t know of any other way they would get the knowledge of how this department works.

cue point
[25:37]

LM:  In discussing the civil service, there is a question that intrigues me, and I suppose you’d probably be able to answer it for me, Chief Ship.  Over the years, has there been influence from the local politicians on who you should hire?

HS:    No, no.  No.  They never interfere with who I hire.  I hire who I think is best qualified, and there’s no interference.

LM:    That’s rather remarkable, actually, because most places, there is this political influence if civil service isn’t instituted.  What do you think makes the difference here?

HS:    Well, the difference here I’m sure is back in 1946, I believe it was, the people organized a political party which they called the West University Party, and they appointed a nominating committee.  This nominating committee would choose probably 30 to 50—you might say—applicants for the job of commissioner or mayor or whatever it might be.  And this nominating committee would screen all these people, and they’d try to come up with the best qualified.  It has generally been the thought of the city administration to leave department heads alone.  Of course, this is not always true, but we don’t as a rule have people butting in to our business.  Of course, it’s their business too, but we know how it’s supposed to operate and they don’t.  And it’s not like having a real political situation where they very seldom have opposition.  And that may not be good, but (laughs).

LM:    From what you said then, there are really not sharp political factions.

HS:    28:10  No, not in the last 27 or 28 years.  They very seldom had opposition, which may not be too good in one way because sometimes they might get to thinking that they have it all to themselves.  It might change.  (laughs)

RK:    I’ve noticed that too.  You don’t have city commissioners on the other side of the desk from you.  You don’t have the city manager over there.  If something comes up, instead of trying to do it, they say, “Here is the situation.”  And that’s the way it should be, because naturally, Chief Ship’s experience and schooling and my limited experience and schooling is designed to enable us to do the police job or the police function, and the same thing with the police officers.  And that’s the reason for the commission and the basic program that everyone has to go through and, in fact, that all officers have to be certified.  That’s why it’s done.  If a city manager wants to run the police department, he doesn’t need the chief of police.  If he needs to run the water department, he doesn’t need the water superintendent.  It’s taken care of, I think, like it should be taken care of.  You’ve got a city administrator, and he uses the department heads or gives them the latitude to run their departments, and the elected officials of the city don’t interfere either.

LM:    Then you’ve never had a situation here such as existed in Houston proper during the ‘40s and before that with sharp clashes between political fashions.

HS:    Oh, we have had.  Yes, we have had before 1946.  That’s probably what caused this party to be formed because it was—sometimes the council meetings were a three-ring circus.  No.  It hasn’t always been this way.  And it’s far from perfect now because you get eager beaver council members that think certain things should be done, and they’ll kind of run you ragged about it for a while.  But overall, I think that they have let us run the department pretty well.

LM:    Without civil service, how does this affect the officers in their politicking?  Under the civil service that the Houston Police Department has, they’re not allowed to actively participate in politics except to vote.

HS:    We’re not either.

cue point
[31:30]


RK:  But by and large, we run the department through a set of rules and regulations of the West University Place Police Department and our policy guidelines.  The rules and regulations have many things in it, as does the actual civil service law.  As a matter of fact, most police department’s rules and regulations, which departments are under civil service, are drawn up from the civil service law.  The staff of the West University Place Police Department drew up our rules and regulations, and those rules and regulations make the guidelines that our department is run by, and in there it prohibits the personnel of the police department from actively engaging in local political campaigns.  It doesn’t say that they can’t get out here and put a good word in for a state representative of their choice or for a federal position for the Congress, but it does say that we can’t get out here and actively engage in local politics.  I’m not going to do it ever.  You’ll never catch me out here pushing one man for mayor, because if he doesn’t get it, I’m in a bind, and (chuckles) it would be suicide for me.  I think the people that run for office out here are intelligent enough to know that they can’t go to department heads and solicit votes, because they know that we’re not going to get involved in it.  Certainly, I wouldn’t attend a West University Place Party meeting for any amount of money.  I was interested to know what went on, naturally, but you’re not going to catch me there, because you’re not going to catch me in a position where they can pressure me.  I don’t know how it was in the past, but I don’t attend the city commission meetings either unless I’m invited to do so.  If I’m not there or Chief Ship’s not there or a member of the police department is not there, then somebody who has got a particular complaint can’t get you on the floor and have a debate with you on the floor and take up valuable time and get you in a jam too.  If they’ve got a complaint, it can go through the commission and it can be routed to the department heads who can intelligently work on it, not under pressure.  (chuckles)

HS:    I think in a situation like that, it gives the complainer the edge because he’s hitting you cold, and you don’t have time to think about it.  I always like to think about a question a little bit before I give the answer (chuckles) because they hold you to it sometimes.  But I think that this rule—and I believe they passed a new state law this year that does permit officers to take part in politics off duty but not on duty—and I think this regulation protects me more than it does anybody, because the council can’t expect me to take part.

RK:    That’s true.

HS:    And I’d be a fool to take part if I don’t have to, because somebody is going to lose.  It may be you. 

cue point
[35:24]

LM:   So you sort of remained neutral during mayoral elections and so forth?

HS:    I have attended these party meetings.  I’d say at the beginning I attended quite a few, but it was more or less to keep order.  You always have some dissenters among those faces and, actually, the mayor at the time this was started wanted me there at some of the meetings to kind of keep order.  But that’s the only reason I was there.  I never expressed my opinion or anything pro or con about the party or anybody that might be opposing the party.

LM:    Does the department have its own retirement and sick benefit funds?

RK:    Retirement is handled through the Texas Municipal Retirement System, which is a state governed retirement system.  Cities at their option can become a member city of this retirement system, thus allowing the personnel of that city to also become individual members.  It’s a good system.  It basically was set up for the smaller cities.  It’s a large retirement system.  As a matter of fact, it’s the second largest retirement system in the state right now.  It’s a good retirement system.  It’s very much sound, where many police department’s retirement systems or city’s retirement systems are not sound.  Houston is having trouble with their retirement system and, fortunately, our retirement system is not.  The city takes care of your accident hospitalization and, actually, they take care of any on-duty accident, whether it’s in the sanitation department or police department, completely.  We do have workman’s comp, and we have life insurance.  They pay a little more life insurance on the police department commissioned officers than they do on the other personnel of the city unless—  Does the fire department get the same thing?  Do you know?

HS:    I think everybody gets the same.

RK:    Well, we get $3,000.  And we do accumulate sick days at the rate of one day a month, so it gives you 12 sick days a year.  It’s not cumulative right now so far as being able to take it when you retire or terminate.  There are probably going to be some changes made in it in the near future because of some changes in state law.  But basically, it’s a good, sound system, and I think the fringe benefits are adequate and maybe even a little bit above many of the cities our size.

HS:    Yeah.

LM:    38:51  What about the formation of a Police Officers Association?  Do you have one here?

RK:    Yes, we do.  We do have a Police Officers Association.  It’s comprised of the commissioned personnel of the police department.  And right now I guess that’s 100 percent.  I think all 18 of us are members of the association.  It basically is an association for the betterment of the benefits for the police officers, and in doing so, their primary activity is to pay the deductible amount on insurance claims, and this would be off-duty claims.  I think Chief Ship was a recipient of a check from them from a hospitalization that he had where he had a deductible amount that had to come out of his pocket.  They accumulate the money from dues plus once a year having a big barbecue that’s open to the public.  They sponsor a Little League baseball team.  They’re actively engaged in all the public relations programs that we present to the citizens.  As a matter of fact, most of our work comes from the members of the association on our off-duty time, or much off-duty time is applied to these things and the officers aren’t getting paid for it.  They get the personal satisfaction of helping the citizens and in return get the support of the citizens for the police department, which is important not only to me but to them and to the city.

LM:    Is this association a chartered—

RK:    Yes.

LM:    —member of the Texas Municipal Police Officers Association?

RK:    Yes, it is.

LM:    How long has it been in existence?

HS:    About two years, I guess.  A year and a half or two years.  Shortly before you came.

RK:    Members of this department have been associated with the Texas Municipal Police Officers Association.  As a matter of fact, Chief Ship was one of the founders of the Texas Municipal Police Officers Association.  He has served as its president.

LM:    I see.  How did you get involved in that?

cue point
[41:22]

HS:   The people that were founders of the association were friends of mine, and they explained to me what it was all about and I liked it, so I just got involved in it.

LM:    What year was this approximately?

HS:    I believe it first started about 1949 or ’50.

RK:    This was the 25th year.

LM:    The Houston branch was organized in late ’45, their chapter, which was the first, I believe, in the state.

HS:    I think that’s right.

LM:    Earl Maughmer.

HS:    Yeah.  He was the first president of the Texas Municipal Police Association, and Earl and I have been friends for 30 years, I guess.

RK:    I guess it was originally the Texas Municipal Police Officer Association came out of Houston.

HS:    Yeah.

RK:    Its charter involved the Houston Greater Metropolitan area and the Dallas Greater Metropolitan area.

HS:    No.  Well, that was—not at first.

RK:    Was it Fort Worth?

HS:    Fort Worth, Abilene, Waco, Wichita Falls.  But I wasn’t in it from the beginning.  I guess it was about 1950 when I first got in.  I remember the first meeting I attended there were eight cities represented.  They couldn’t hardly keep me off the board of directors.  (laughs)

LM:    43:06  Do you all have much cooperation between your association and, say, the Houston Police Officers Association?  Do they ever consult you, or do you consult with them on policy decisions?

HS:    Oh, we’ve always been closely associated, not only with their association but with their officers and more especially the Burglary and Theft Division, Robbery Division, and the Identification Division.  We’ve always worked very closely because their criminals are our criminals, and we’ve found it has always worked out real well.

LM:    For example, with representatives of the Police Officers Association lobbying in Austin, is this department consulted on these policies?

HS:    Oh, yes.  We get the newsletter, I guess it’s once a month.

RK:    Yeah.  Then too, the things that are brought before the legislature by the TMPA are decided or discussed at the annual conference.  It’s decided what TMPA will bring before the legislature.  Then matters that arise in the legislature that haven’t been discussed at the general conference are referred back to the general membership of the entire association through the legislative committee.  The legislative committee usually is made up of officers from various different geographical points around the state who should be able to intelligently and effectively get this information back to the general membership.  Certainly, there are times when there is not time to do this and we have to rely on the members of the legislative committee who would be in Austin during the legislature while it’s in session to make an intelligent decision.  And for that reason, a lot of emphasis is placed on the personnel who are members of the legislative committee and who will be in Austin during the session of the legislature.  But I think for an association that’s got 7,000 members plus, we do a fine job.  We do a real good job of getting the information out to everybody.  I’m fortunate to be on its board of directors too, and my general responsibility is I am the retirement chairman, and we have a great number of committees and a great number of chairmen and a good many board of directors, but the reason for it is the board of directors come from all over the state and they’re scattered out.  Houston won’t have three or four men from the Houston Police Department on the board of directors.  Although they may represent a fifth of the entire association, they won’t have a fifth of the representatives in the executive offices, just one person.  And this is good because this gets members from all over the state and from all of the not necessarily major departments but at least a good scattering of members from the board from all over the state, and we get a lot better input into the association because of the various different reasons of concern from different geographical areas.

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[46:59]

LM:  Which department would you say provides the leadership for the association?

RK:    I really don’t think that there’s one particular department that does that.  I think it’s more of a group effort.  Naturally, the larger departments—Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Fort Worth, El Paso—have a lot more votes when it comes down to voting, but I think input comes from all over the state.  The secretary-treasurer of the association is from Sweetwater.  That’s a small place.  There are members of the board from little towns all over the state.  And I really don’t think that you could say one department really puts more into it than anything else.  Naturally, these bigger departments can emphasize things a little more strongly than one man somewhere else and can pretty well control what goes on should they desire to do so, but I don’t think that happens too much.  Do you think so?

HS:    No.  I think the larger cities are more fortunate in this respect that it’s a little easier for them to get free time to go to the legislature and this sort of thing because of the number of personnel.  And Houston, I think, is real lenient on this type thing.  It’s to our advantage that they go up there quite a lot on the wage an hour proposition, but that’s not all we have.  We ask for laws that will help us in our work and help the state in general to put some of these people away and relieve society of their activities.  I expect our association is responsible for the partial death penalty law coming back, because we can put a lot of pressure and that’s what it takes.  You have to face it, when you go to the legislature, you’ve got to have pressure, and there’s no kidding about it.  We’ve been very fortunate to be friendly with most of the governors that have held office, and this is a big help because they can sway things one way or the other a lot of times, and it has been a great help to us. 

LM:    All right.  Let’s go on to the important area of the legal jurisdiction of your department.  How do you operate in cooperation with the Houston department or the Bellaire department or any of the others with regard to patrolling, investigating a crime, follow-up, and so on?

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[50:33]

RK:    50:33  Naturally, our legal jurisdiction is the city limits of West University Place.  So far as its crime, let me put this in sequence a little bit.  If West University first of all has a crime that is not detected when it happens and they don’t have an active participation in the search for the criminal or the suspect at that immediate time, we take a look at the crime, and we will check with Houston, we’ll check with Bellaire, and we’ll check with the village police department and see if we’ve got something that’s happening to all three of us.  Normally, we will.  If that’s the case, our investigators get together, compare notes, and work together in that manner.  If we have a crime that occurs in West University that involves an active situation where it’s just happened and we’ve got some information on a suspect and we’ve got some information about where he’s going, if he’s going into Houston back toward downtown, naturally, we’re going to tell Houston about it.  We’re going to get on the phone and we’re going to tell them immediately, and they’re going to try to help us catch this guy.  We’re going to be going out of the city looking for this guy.  We’re going to be looking for him in another city.  If the suspect is headed toward Bellaire, we’re going to contact Bellaire.  If we think there’s a possibility of him getting away from the immediate area very soon, then we’re going to put it out on teletype to the Gulf Coast area, which will cover everything from Victoria to Port Arthur and it’ll be on teletype.  Everybody will know what we’re looking for.  The cooperation is very, very good.  When I left Beaumont and the Golden Triangle area, I said that no group of police agencies could work any better together than the ones down there, but I was wrong in that statement because the people here work more closely together than that.  I’m sure it’s because of the situation of actually a sign being the only physical barrier of a city limits.  A street simply changes from being in West University to that in Bellaire and vice versa, and the same thing in Houston, the same thing with Southside Place.  We surround Southside, Houston surrounds us, with the exception of Bellaire who butts up against our west side and we against their east side.  The situation is real good.  We follow the suspect. 

    For instance, yesterday we got a call of a crime that occurred in Houston.  It carried over into West University.  We discovered that in the process it went through Southside Place.  An arrest was made.  It was made by us in Southside Place.  We called Southside officers, Southside officers came and took charge of the prisoner.  We’ll serve as witnesses in that case, and the cases that are filed will be first filed in Southside Place.  Parts of the case will also be filed in Houston.  In this way we’ll have officers from three cities involved and testifying against these people.  West University officers will testify in Southside Municipal Court on a municipal case because they were witnesses to it and actually made the arrest, but it was turned over to Southside.  Southside officers and West University officers will probably testify to a county court case that happened in Houston.  It will be tried in county court, but it’s Houston’s case, and our officers will be testifying.  And for this reason, policing just won’t work unless you’ve got good cooperation, and we’ve got real good cooperation. 

    Naturally, from time to time because of the complexity of the size of Houston and the complexity of the new penal code which we’re all having to work with, which is an entirely new law, things get a little bit confused, and things can get a little bit out of hand.  Recently we had a case where Houston made a raid on a gambling operation in our city.  Because of probably several different circumstances, we didn’t actively get involved in this, and it turns out that we were investigating it and they were investigating it and, consequently, we doubled up and wasted somebody’s money because we were both doing the same thing.  This is going to happen from time to time.  We’ve got to accept that.

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[55:55]

LM:     Before making the raid, did they consult your department?

RK:    Before they actually made the raid, they did call us and tell us, “Look, we’ve got a raid that’s coming down and it turns out part of it is going to take place in your city, right on the fringe.”  They did call us and tell us they were going in.  I’m sure that after talking with the chief on the telephone and he checked into it and called me back, there were a lot of circumstances that just simply didn’t allow the time to intelligently get together.  Now, naturally, some of this should have taken place prior to this time.  But as it turned out, the actual investigation on this circumstance solved a case in Houston, and no knowledge of an operation in West University existed until the actual time they got ready to make the raid, and then they learned that part of the operation was taking place in our city.  Time didn’t permit them to come out here and sit down with us and discuss the thing.  All they had time to do was make a phone call, “Look, we’ve got a raid going down at such and such a location.  We want you to know about it.  It’s in your city.”  Our officers said, “Do you need any help?”  And they said no, they didn’t.  So they went ahead and made the raid and we took no part in it.  I don’t like that, the citizens of West University, I’m sure, wouldn’t like that, and I don’t think the city administration would either.  It’s something that just happened, and I’m sure it’s going to happen again.  We may have situations where we may do something in Houston and not have time to really get that involved in it.  But on situations where there is enough information, knowing that we’re going to have to work together, we work together.  We work together quite well, and I think that’s true of the past too.

HS:    Oh, yeah. 

LM:    Perhaps this is a question you might be able to answer since you were on the force a long time.  Has there been a difference between the cooperation received from Chief Short and Chief Lynn?  Has there been a change?

HS:    58:06  No.  I can’t see any change because I don’t think the chief of police of Houston has that much to do with it.  Not that he doesn’t have the authority, but we deal with inspectors on down in charge of these various divisions, and I doubt that the chief of police would ever have too much effect on our operation or our cooperation with them.

RK:    Actually, I think you can even break it down further than that and say that really, it’s the cooperation of the investigators, the actual people who are out doing the job, the people who are in the field doing the work.  Those are the people that have got to get along, and most of it’s going to take between those people.  I don’t expect to get a personal telephone call saying, “Look, we need to work with somebody.”  And Chief Lynn wouldn’t know what to do if I called him and told him that.  We need to call whoever it is that’s going to be handling that specialized section in Houston.  And Houston will simply get in touch with our investigators in West University and say, “Look, we’re working on such and such, and y’all are going to be involved in it because some of it is in your city.”  And they’ll work together.

LM:    But there are operational guidelines.

RK:    Oh, certainly, certainly.  And the operational guidelines are pretty well governed by state law.  The new penal code isn’t quite as rigorous about some of it as the old law was.

LM:    Can you give me just one example of what you mean by that?

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[59:45]


RK:    It’s going to take a minute.  For instance, the old law had two separate places—let’s don’t say two; it’s probably more than that.  There were several different sections in the old penal code which included five volumes. 

[end of 090_D1]  1:00:24

RK:    [beginning of 090_D2]  00:08  And throughout those five volumes there were discrepancies in what jurisdiction distance was allowed.  I know there was one instance that said that you had 1,500 feet, another that said you had 5,000 feet, another that said you had a half a mile of jurisdiction.  And this was all related to many different things.  It’s just like the old law on carrying a prohibited weapon in Texas.  You can’t get a permit to carry a pistol.  It says you may carry a prohibited weapon, and a pistol is included in that if you’re traveling, but there’s no definition of what traveling is.  The law was written when people were traveling by horse and buggy, and now they’re traveling by automobiles that up until recently could drive 70 miles an hour.  So that changes the situation.  Now there is no guideline at all that says what your jurisdiction is.

LM:    It complicates matters, doesn’t it?

RK:    It’s not that bad.  We can go out, and the police officer can arrest for an offense committed in his presence or view, a peace officer.  Policemen in West University and policemen in Houston fall under that category.  We don’t want our policemen out here when they’re off duty arresting people for running a red light if they’re in their private car.  If this person is committing a felony or driving while intoxicated, if the officer can safely effect an arrest until the uniformed people can get there, then we want him to do that.  This hasn’t changed that much, but we have a little better guidelines to go by now because it’s defined a little bit better in the new penal code as to who can make an arrest and what the circumstances are for that arrest.  A peace officer can arrest and detain people for any offense committed in his presence or view.  A citizen can make an arrest but under certain circumstances.  I don’t say that an individual should try to go out here and stop a man with a gun from robbing somebody.  But you can file the charge or get the information and get somebody to help you hold him and keep him from doing something.  The guidelines are a little bit better in that respect.  I think we’re getting away from what we were actually talking about, but—

LM:    That’s useful information.  Let me ask you this concerning the difference between the violation of a municipal ordinance or law and a felony offense.  Now, a West University officer can arrest anyone anywhere if it is a felony offense.  Is that right?

RK:    That’s true.

LM:    What about an infraction of a local law in Houston proper?  Could a West University officer make such an arrest?

RK:    We won’t do that unless they’re on duty.  Many times our on-duty personnel may continue an investigation in another part of Houston or even the county or even in another city in Harris County.  For instance, in this case I went recently to serve a warrant in Pasadena.  Pasadena police went with us.  We went out to serve this warrant.  The fellow wasn’t there and so we came back.  On the way back, we observed a fellow driving very recklessly on the freeway.  Really, all we had was a violation of a state law, which is a misdemeanor, the same as a city ordinance would be.  It’s governed by the fact that it’s triable in municipal court or justice of the peace court and carries a maximum fine of $200 and no jail time at all.  We stopped this car and in doing so called our dispatcher who in turn called Houston.  Houston sent somebody over there, and they made the arrest.  We’ll serve as witnesses in that case, but we did stop and detain this person and legally did that.

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[1:05:04]

LM:  One—  Go ahead.  I’m sorry.

RK:    I was going to go on about the felony.  Any time any of our officers make an arrest anywhere else or a Houston officer makes an arrest here, the best thing to do is make the arrest, hold the person, and get a Houston car there or the agency that has jurisdiction in that area.  Get them there and let them handle the people.  That’s the way it should be handled, because that helps the public relations a little bit.  That agency needs to know what’s going on.  They might have something they’re already working on in relation to that.  But if it’s something that needs to be taken care of, then I think it needs to be taken care of right then.  And if we’re in Houston, our officers should stop, detain, and stop or prevent whatever it is from happening and get somebody else over there.  Many times we will respond to some type of serious call when life may be in danger on the outskirts of our city and into Houston.  As a matter of fact, we just had two officers that testified in a rape case in Houston.  It was something that took place in Houston.  A call came out, and we monitor Houston’s calls.  We know what they’re doing, and we need to know what they’re doing.  And consequently, the cars that work around our area monitor us too because they need to know what we’re doing.  A call came in that a possible kidnapping was in progress, and it was a location about six blocks out of our city.  Our officers responded to it and caught the man that was actually kidnapping the lady and had forcibly raped her.  We held the people there until Houston got there.  They took the case over, our officers testified and actually were the key witnesses on the arrest.  If we have a situation that we can’t handle, we need Houston’s cooperation.  So we’ve got to cooperate with them too.  Now, people come back and say, “Well, if you go anywhere in Houston and make a call, you’re going to leave West University open.”  Well, that may be true, but that guy that’s committing the crime six blocks out of our city ten minutes later may be committing it in our city.  And if we stop it when we’re there, it’s not Houston’s criminal, it’s a criminal.  It’s a person involved in criminal activity, and chances are it’s going to be that criminal activity is going to be in West University sooner or later.  So if we can stop crime in and around our area, we’re helping us.  We’re not going to run to Pasadena to help them make an arrest.  That’s ridiculous because chances are their criminal may not come over here, but many times they do.  But if it happens in Bellaire or if it happens around our general area, then chances are it’s our crime too, just like Chief Ship said.  Houston doesn’t have a monopoly on a bunch of criminals and we don’t have a monopoly on a bunch.  We share them.  And being surrounded by Houston, we’re susceptible to all that crime, so we’ve got to be ready for it.

LM:    08:15  If you received a call from someone that was just a block over into the Houston jurisdiction and they needed help immediately—it was someone attempting to commit a felony—would you respond?

RK:    If it involved life and property, certainly we would.

LM:    Okay.

RK:    We almost have to.  Again, there are things that have to be considered in that.  It depends on if we’ve got somebody available.  If we’ve got similar things going on in West University and don’t have somebody to spare, then we just can’t, because our responsibility is to the taxpayers of West University.  If something is going on and we’ve got somebody we can spare, we’re going to get them there until Houston gets a car there.  Because Houston is so burdened, we all know it’s accepted fact that on very serious crimes it may take them as much as five to ten minutes to get a car there.  They just may not have anybody available.  They may not have anybody within five miles of it.  They may not even have a police car in the area within five miles of it.  So we have to respond to these calls knowing that, and our officers usually know where their officers are because they’re listening to the monitors from Houston and they know what their cars are doing.  Don’t you agree with that, Chief Ship?

HS:    Yeah.

RK:    That’s always been the case.  If Houston just has a wreck, if they’re in an accident and they don’t have anybody available to help this guy direct traffic, we’ve got somebody available and it’s not far.  We’re going to send a car to go and direct traffic.

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[1:10:09]

We’re going to be able to get in touch with him and get him back here if we need him, but that helps.  The accident could be at Kirby and University Boulevard, and if he hasn’t got somebody to work traffic, he’s liable to back traffic up into West University, so it’s going to behoove us to get over there and help him out.  (chuckles)  We may have a situation where we’ve had a real bad accident, and Houston comes over and helps us with them too.  It’s got to be a give and take situation and, fortunately, it works very well.

LM:    10:30  There’s one other question that comes to my mind dealing both with jurisdiction and cooperation, and that’s with the rapid growth of private detective agencies and guard agencies recently.  How do you find that working out?  Do you find this is a help or a hindrance?

RK:    We don’t have a whole lot of it in West University because we’re not industrialized and we don’t have that many businesses.  And, primarily, the guard agencies or the private investigator agencies are right now mainly involved with industry and larger business.  We do have several private investigation companies who take care of particular people’s homes who are on vacation.  And if they let us know they’re doing this, it’s a help to us probably, sometimes.  We’ve found that many times the personnel that are hired by private investigation agencies are not the best in the world.  They don’t have the facilities to actively carry out proper background checks.  I know we made an arrest the other night for a relatively serious crime, and it turned out this guy worked for a private investigation agency.  And when we ran our background check on him for a criminal record check, he had a record a mile long from Corpus Christi.  He had records of arrest in Bellaire, and he was working in our area.  Naturally, we got in touch with those people, and they terminated him immediately.  They’re not stupid people.  They don’t want anybody working for them that’s got a bad criminal record.

LM:    Didn’t they check him out?

RK:    Well, yeah, but there are things that just don’t show up at times.  If you don’t know where to go to look and the guy simply didn’t ever tell them he had been in Corpus Christi, why should they check Corpus Christi?  They don’t have the capabilities of going through a teletype, a Law Enforcement Network teletype, to check this information out.  There’s a lot of dissention among police administrators about private security people, because the main reason is they’re not highly qualified people.  We’ll turn people loose from this city because they are undesirable police officers, and they’ll be hired by private security.  And they’re out here doing a job in many people’s eyes that is a police function, and they reflect badly on police departments.  If it’s a police function he’s doing and he fouls it up and makes a mess out of it, it reflects on the policing and police agencies.  More times than not, they’ll foul something up pretty bad too, and it’s because they don’t have the background, they don’t have the education, and they’re not intelligent enough people to do the job, which shows that we’ve got to have intelligent people in law enforcement.  I think that if some of the private industry would realize the problem and put the money in the right place, they might could solve their problems through local law enforcement, which is where it should be enforced.  I’m not saying that Strand Steel shouldn’t have their own security, I’m not saying that Texaco, Incorporated, shouldn’t have their own group of law enforcement personnel, but many of the smaller detective agencies that are springing up are people that are out just trying to make a dime or make a dollar.  They’re interested in making a dollar, and that’s all they’re interested in.  A policeman is a policeman because he wants to be a policeman, because he’s sure not going to get rich at doing it.  I look down sometimes on a lot of private security.  There’s a lot of private security that’s good.  The Texaco Rangers are probably one of the most elite private security groups—

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[1:15:10]

LM:    Texaco Rangers?

RK:    Texaco Rangers.  They have a group called the Texaco Rangers, and it is an investigative group, and they handle internal problems with Texaco. 

LM:    Interesting.

RK:    They pay a tremendous salary.  You’ve got a lot of leading law enforcement personnel who leave local law enforcement or governmental law enforcement to go into private security with Texaco.  I don’t know what the salary is now, but in ’69, or I guess maybe ’70 at the time a Beaumont patrolman was making—or let’s go to a Beaumont detective because that would be comparable—a Beaumont detective was making about $700 a month.  You could leave Beaumont and go to the Texaco Rangers and make $1,200 a month.  That’s because private industry is able to pay.  But it’s a good group of people.  There are some fly-by-night security groups around right now and around in our area that aren’t worth a hill of beans.  They’re handling security for a group of apartments or for a discount store, and they’re doing it for minimum wage and, consequently, they’re getting unqualified people.

LM:    And they’re allowed to use firearms, right?

RK:    16:21  While they’re on that property.  You’ll notice that you don’t see these private security people carrying their guns around with them when they’re out driving around.  They can’t do that anymore.  But while they’re on the premise where they’re working, if it’s private property, they can carry it.  They’re not qualified to use it.  They probably shoot themselves more than they do anybody else at times.  Some of them are qualified to use it.  But still, there’s probably a need for additional security right now, but I feel that the money that’s supplied toward the private security industry should be instead put into local law enforcement in some means or another.  You’ve got a lot of police officers working extra duty or off-duty jobs.  A lot of our policemen do that.  And they will work for an agency or a group or an organization—not an agency, excuse me—for an industry or in industry.  They’ll be a guard for a store.  They’ll work as a floor walker trying to catch shoplifters.  These are qualified people who are doing this.  And consequently, they’re getting paid a fairly good wage for this.  But you can go get a private security company that will work it for half or sometimes less than half than the officer works it for.  The store will turn the officer loose and then put the private security person in to do this job because they’re getting it cheaper.  Sometimes they may get a guy that’s qualified to do it and sometimes they may not.  I don’t mean to say that policemen should work extra duty jobs.  Policemen should make enough money where they don’t have to work extra jobs.  And maybe the time is coming when that’s going to happen, but right now some of my men probably make as much money on the extra jobs as they do actual salary working here, and this is something that’s a concern to myself and, I’m sure, Chief Ship, because there’s a possibility if it gets too great, the police department job may become secondary to their extra work. 

LM:    Your officers are supposed to work 40 hours a week?

RK:    Forty hours a week.

LM:    I just want to sidetrack just for a brief moment.  On disciplinary problems do you have much of a—

RK:    No, not in this department.

LM:    Using excessive force or drinking on duty or any number of things?

RK:    No.  The disciplinary problems in this department are real small.  We’ve got an intelligent bunch of people, and if we’ve got something that’s going on that’s not desirable, it’s usually caught before it gets to any great extremes and is stopped right there.  If some disciplinary action is needed, it is taken.  It goes back to what Chief Ship was telling you.  It’s always nice for the administrator if you don’t have civil service, because you’ve got a little more latitude to work with a problem than you did if you had civil service.  And sometimes civil service can complicate disciplinary action in a particular instance and actually turn out with a worse situation than you started with because of the guidelines, and maybe that’s bad.  But we have very little disciplinary problem in this department.  Wouldn’t you say so?

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[1:20:25]

HS:  Oh, yeah.

RK:    In any small department you’ve got people who are out stirring up trouble now and then.  But they’re not big things, it’s only small things, and this is typical of a small department.  But it’s not bad enough to where it causes anything to happen to the department.  It doesn’t reduce the effectiveness of the department.

LM:    What kind of little things would these be?

RK:    One got a little bit jealous because another guy got to take Saturday night off because it was his birthday.  One got a little bit irritated because another fellow got a new cap and he didn’t get a new cap.  They’re really petty jealousies that can take place anywhere.  It’s more drama in the small department because everybody knows what’s going on with everybody else.  One fellow gets mad because he got one more box of shells to practice with than this other guy did—little, little petty things, nothing big and nothing that really amounts to a whole lot.  A guy gets a little irritated because his shift changed.  That’s a small problem and he’s just going to from time to time have to work some different shifts.  Nothing major.

LM:    Let me go into the last area I wanted to ask you about and that is the types of problems that your department faces with regard to crime, say, as opposed to what is occurring in Houston proper.

RK:    We don’t have any rape, we don’t have any murder, we don’t have any real crimes of violence to amount to anything.  The closest thing that we come to a crime of violence—  Now, that’s not saying we’re not going to have it; we just haven’t been having it.  The closest thing we come to a crime of violence is the hijacking that’s in armed robbery where somebody goes in and by force takes money from a store manager.  We might have occasion to have a robbery by assault on our streets where somebody comes up driving through town and robs somebody by force.  So far as murder, when is the last one we had? 

HS:    22:28  We’ve had four or five since I’ve been here.  We don’t have any unsolved ones.  We’ve had a few rape cases.  We don’t have any unsolved rape cases.

LM:    Over a period of 33 years, that’s not a bad record, four or five murders.

HS:    No, it isn’t.

RK:    We really don’t have a crime problem.  If you’ve got to come out and say, “What is your problem?” although it’s not a problem, burglary is the thing that we need to work on more strongly than anything else.  We are working on it.  We’re about to become involved in a crime prevention program which is new to law enforcement.  This is the concept of preventing the crime from occurring.  Now, we’re not going to stop crime, but hopefully we’re going to displace it from West University to somewhere else.  We’re going to try to make the homes where the burglar can’t get into it, at least not walk up to the back door and just turn the knob and walk in, which a lot of our burglaries take place that way.  Traffic is something that we work real heavy on in West University.  Consequently, we have the lowest traffic accident rate in the state of Texas in this little city.  People say we don’t have any major streets.  Well, we do.  We’ve got Buffalo Speedway and we’ve got Weslayan.  University Boulevard carries a lot of traffic.  We’re fortunate that we don’t have a lot of accidents.  We write a hell of a bunch of tickets.  People call us a speed trap.  Well, maybe that’s true, but these tickets do more than one thing.  It helps our traffic accident rate because yeah, somebody says, “Oh, yeah.  Man, I k now where that is.  You better slow down when you get there.”  Maybe it’s a speed trap, and I don’t like for it to be referred to as that, but the people know that they’ve got to slow down when they get here.  There’s a reason for it.  The houses that we have on Buffalo Speedway face Buffalo Speedway.  Their driveways exit onto Buffalo Speedway.  On both sides of us in Houston this is not true.  You’ve got industry on one side, you’ve got residential homes on the other side, but none of their houses face Buffalo Speedway.  It’s also a boulevard.  Through West University it’s not a boulevard.  It’s a four-lane street divided by a center stripe.  We’ve got to work the traffic on Buffalo Speedway.  We’ve got to hold the speed down because the speed is involved in many collisions.  These officers set up working radar or set up working a red light or a stop sign for traffic are seen.  They’re not only seen by the potential speeder that comes through town, but they’re also seen by the potential burglar that comes into town.  And when he sees that police car, that’s a deterrent, so that, I’m sure, helps hold our burglary down a little bit.  Naturally, if this old burglar sees a car sitting there all the time, he says, “Well, good, I can go over to the other side of town and commit me a burglary.”  And it happens occasionally, but I think the benefit is greater than the hazard involved there.

cue point
[1:25:50]

LM: Chief Ship, have you seen over the years any deterioration or improvement in crime in this area or change in the types of crime?

HS:    No.  I think the types of crime are the same, and I’m sure it increases from year to year.  When you get more people in the city, you’re going to have more crime because some of those people are going to be criminals that increase your population.  Burglary and theft has always been our major crime, and I’m sure it probably always will be.  I think that a city this size needs probably more criminal investigators than we have.  We have to think about all types of police work, and if you have a man that just investigates crime, that’s all he has to have on his mind and that’s all he works on.  I think it’s basically the same.  I think we have more daytime burglaries now than we used to have.  It used to be mostly nighttime.  But other than that, I can’t see too much difference.

LM:    In closing, I’d like to throw out just one question to both of you—I think you’re more or less recent with the department and Chief Ship has had long years in which to gain some perspective—and that is, do you think that police law enforcement is developing into a profession?

HS:    I’d say in the last year or two it has progressed more rapidly than before.  I definitely feel that our main obstacle has been salary.  You can’t have a man with a college degree when you’re paying a kindergarten salary.  (chuckles)  You’ve got to get that salary up there to where it’s inviting.  And a man with a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree won’t come in here and work for nothing when he can go somewhere else and make some money.  Law enforcement officers are not paid anything for risking their lives because there’s not that much money in the world for a man to actually be paid for risking his life.  But it’s an occupation where you have to be dedicated to do it in the first place.  I think someday we’ll see the time when it’ll be recognized as a profession and be looked on like maybe a doctor or an attorney.

RK:    29:06  I’ll agree that we’re almost there.  I think through the years there have been definitions of what is a profession, and through those definitions there are many, many guidelines for saying what a profession is.  Now law enforcement has many of these guidelines that have been accomplished.  We have a commission that certifies police officers and certifies an impressive education.  We have guidelines that say how the job is supposed to be done.  In the medical profession you have to pass the medical board exam.  You’ve got guidelines of how it’s run.  You’ve got your professional associations:  the bar association, you’ve got the medical associations.  We’ve got a good police association.  We are meeting the majority if not all of the guidelines that say what a profession is.  One of the things that we haven’t met is we haven’t met the public’s acceptance as a profession.  And this is coming.  It’s coming in time.

cue point
[1:30:45]

 The people recognize that police officers aren’t what they used to be.  They’re a different breed of people than they used to be.  Policemen by nature are forced to become a little bit more closed in their daily routine of life because they are faced with situations that other people aren’t faced with.  You have to be careful with your association in society because the people you’re dealing with today in a social manner may be the people you’re dealing with in a criminal matter tomorrow, and you’ve got to be unsoiled, you’ve got to keep your life good.  You can’t go to many functions that you would like to go to.  If you want to talk about bingo, you’ve got to be careful about going to a bingo game because tomorrow you may have to close a bingo game down at the Catholic Church, which is all right.  But I think we’re meeting the guidelines of what a profession is as is set out in many of the definitions with the exception that we’re not right now being accepted by the public as a profession.  And I think as soon as the public starts accepting us a profession, then we’ll have more professionalism.  Most of the things that are written down—in history too now—refer to law enforcement as the police profession, and we’re right on the verge of being accepted as a profession.  I don’t think it’s going to be many years before it’s just an accepted fact.  I don’t think we’re going to go along here and all of a sudden one day they’re going to say, “Hey, today we change.  Today I’m 20 years old; tomorrow I’m 21.”  We’re not going to come along here and say, “Hey, today the blue collar worker becomes a white collar worker.”  I think in maybe five years—maybe not that long, maybe even a little bit longer—four or five years, things are just going to evolve, and all of a sudden everybody is going to wake up and you’ll hear the police departments or policemen are going to be professional people and accepted as professional people throughout the country.

LM:     I want to thank you both for your cooperation on behalf of the Houston Metropolitan Archives and Research Center.  It’s been very instructive.  I’ve enjoyed it.  Thank you very much.

RK:    Thank you for taking the opportunity to come out and look at the smaller people.   Although we’re little bitty cogs in a great big wheel sometimes, I think the little cogs help make the entire machine work.

LM:    That’s certainly important to the thousands of people you serve.

RK:    Certainly.

[end of 090_D2]  33:36