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Interview with: Thomas A. Elkins
Interviewed by: Louis J. Marchiafava
Date: October 29, 1974
Archive Number: OH 048
LM: Mr. Elkins, can you give me some of your background? Are you a native Texan?
TE: I’ve lived here primarily all of my life. I was in Tucson, Arizona, August 15th of ’36, and I have a sister a year older and one a year younger. My mother was from Hempstead, and my father was from the west coast around the L.A. area. My mother and dad separated when I was about 4. My mother brought the 3 of us back to Houston and Hempstead area of Texas, and my dad went on to live on the west coast.
LM: When did you first come to Houston?
TE: That was about ’41.
LM: When did you join the police force?
TE: I completed junior high and high school in Bay City, Texas, after going through grade school in Houston, and then went to the Army Airborne for 3 years, and got out of the service in ’58. I had been a motorcycle enthusiast for a number of years, and I had a strong desire to be a motorcycle officer and applied and was accepted, and went through the academy there latter part of ’58.
LM: You’ve been with the department ever since?
TE: Yes, sir.
LM: What were your motivations for joining the force at that time?
TE: 01:44 That was primarily it. I actually had probably given very little other thought to any other type of law enforcement other than just being a motorcycle officer. I guess that’s primarily because of my interest in motorcycles.
LM: What was your idea of police work when you first joined the force? What did you conceive of it to be?
TE: Well, we’re taught in the academy over there that there’s a lot of public service involved. Of course, our primarily responsibility is to protect life and property, and anything along those lines that our duty would cause us to do from day to day, although we find that from time to time other things are involved. Primarily, basically, everything gets back to the protection of the citizens and their property, like I said.
LM: You mentioned the academy, and I was wondering if you could tell me, do you think the academy prepared you well for the job?
TE: Yes, I was both surprised at the quality of the work we did, and once we had graduated and demonstrated, I was proud how well we did know just about everything we needed to know at that time. That was better than 16 years ago, and things have changed drastically in that period of time. I feel sure from the quality of the work that the young men do that they receive as up-to-date a thing as we did at that time.
LM: Have you had any refresher courses?
TE: Several, yeah, we used to get them about once a year.
LM: What did they consist of?
TE: Basically, the changes in laws that has to do with the laws of arrest and evidence and things of this nature. Very little of it is technical advancement, but mostly changes in the law to bring us up-to-date with what the supreme court has ruled we may and may not do as far as making our cases.
LM: How do you feel about the court decisions recently? Do you feel they’re a hindrance to your performance?
TE: 04:16 No, I feel that a large number of police officers misread a lot of these laws when they first came about. We had seen that at the federal government, particularly the FBI, had been able to make their cases for a number of years more or less going along these same guidelines. Where, as a police department and police officers, we were not following these guidelines, because they had never been tested. There were a number of cases that were reversed immediately after the laws were changed. Some officers were more or less very discouraged at this because they saw people going free that we knew had committed a crime, but by the same token, evidence had been not procured and used against them in a way that the courts felt violated their rights. Because of this we were discouraged for awhile, but later we changed our techniques, and we found that with a little bit more effort and using different investigative endeavors that we could make our cases just as readily.
LM: Do you think these decisions have the effect of improving the quality of—?
TE: Oh, no doubt about it. Yes, sir.
LM: When you graduated from the academy and began performing your duties on the street, was there a shock effect? Was it what you expected?
TE: Pretty much what I had expected, I would say, I had just got out of the service, and primarily half of my company was colored, and a large amount of our work at that particular time, that was colored people. They seem to be all—at that time, they were involved in the majority of our investigations in one way or another. Having lived, so to speak, for the previous 3 years with actually more colored people than white or Latin Americans, I had no trouble at all getting along with them and understanding them. There was no great shock, as far as dealing with these people on our everyday investigations, from my point of view.
LM: Did it have a shock with any of the other men that you worked with?
TE: Yes, I’ve seen people who I thought were good men, who were not good police officers. A lot of them left the department because they found that this was not the kind of work that they wanted to do.
LM: How did this shock manifest itself in these men?
TE: Various ways to different people. There was one particular individual I recall came to work. That was probably his last day. He did not even carry a pistol with him. He was just down so much on his job that he didn’t want to take the chance he might have to shoot anybody, so he came in without his firearm. Of course, he was immediately interviewed by a supervisor and relieved of duty.
LM: 07:43 Probably most of the officers that you were familiar with, did they hold strong racial views?
TE: Most that I know well, who are well-adjusted persons, are not biased. They try to do their job regardless who is involved. Of course, there is and over the years there have been officers that I’ve known that have been very prejudiced.
LM: Were their superiors aware of this?
TE: I think this is something that we all learned to live with, and that as long as a man—in other words, a man can be prejudiced, and it can show very little in his work. He doesn’t have to let it bother him. He can voice an opinion, and this is primarily what I was familiar with, people who would make remarks particularly about Negroes, but their work did not reflect that they were biased when they were dealing with them. I think, for the most part, if the man is doing the job, particularly if he is in public view, then this doesn’t come up too much. It’s not noticed.
LM: How long did you work in the black communities?
TE: I worked about 7 years. When I worked evening shift, I was the first officer that rode in those black districts by myself. I proudly made more felony arrests on car thieves and hijackers than any team of officers or anybody to my knowledge working in that district or any other district in the city.
LM: How did the black community look before you, in your view?
TE: They’re feeling rises and falls. It depends on the situation. I know—at one particular point of that time, early ’57, there was a strong feeling against the police officers in general. You could feel the tension in the colored areas. We had an incident here, involved a shootout at primarily a colored University of Texas Southern, in which a police officer was killed.
LM: Were you there?
TE: 10:15 No, I had been shot about 3 weeks before by a hijacker, and I was off.
LM: That’s a hard way to get a vacation.
TE: Just to my way of thinking, it was tragic that the rookie officer was killed, which was regrettable, but had one of the Southern students been killed, it wouldn’t been a lot worse situation than it was. I think the officers exercised a great amount of strength from the people I talked to who were there and reading accounts of it. I just felt that had a colored student been killed because of the police officers, that there would have been a full-fledged riot here as there was in other major cities at that same time.
LM: There was a quite a bit of discussion—when Chief Short was chief—in the black community concerning the belief that the police department was racist in the administration. Do you think any of those criticisms were justified?
TE: I don’t believe that this race prejudice is as strong in the police department as outsiders would have everyone believe. In my duties out there, riding in a black area, every time I stopped a black person—which primarily that’s all I did, because that’s all that was in the area—on a county violation or a misdemeanor, if they were involved in an investigation in any way and arrested, the first thing I heard was, “The only reason you’re doing it is because I’m black.” For awhile, I got a convention that they’re involved in the investigation merely because of who they are and the circumstances surrounding the case, and their color of skin had nothing to do with it. After hearing that for 2 or 3 years, I just got to where I didn’t care whether they knew why the investigation was transpiring or not. My investigations were completed, regardless of how they felt about it.
LM: Have you ever worked with black officers?
TE: Temporarily for a few days. In the district I work now, a black officer rides the next car, the next beat. An officer—we went through the academy together—many, many times we’ll both take a call at the same location, and I’ve always found I could depend on him. I think that he feels that he can depend on me. Of course, we ride an area now predominately, well, about half and half Chicano and colored and white.
LM: Is there any difference between the reception you receive in the black community and in the Chicano community?
TE: 13:05 Not so much now. Things are pretty quiet right now. You go out there on a call or you handle these people, if you have to arrest them, there’s not the tension as there was several years ago. Used to be, you used to watch your back pretty close. Now you just do your job, and you don’t worry about the hostile ground so much.
LM: The indication from what you’re saying then is race relations have improved?
TE: Well—I guess—generally, so. There is definitely an improvement on the local level as well as the national level, I feel. I feel that the black community has realized some of the goals that they were demonstrating for and that they were working to obtain. As far as I know, right now, they’re happy, they’re contented. The ones that want to work, work. The ones that don’t, we deal with them everyday, but that’s the same in the white community.
LM: You brought me to the next question. How does the community, in general, view police officers, at least through your eyes?
TE: I feel that we’re tolerated more than either liked or admired. Of course, we would like to be admired. I feel part of this is a situation that we’ve got on ourselves. We may have not earned this admiration that a lot of us would like to have, either by the performance of our duties, solving of major crimes, or even minor crimes that touch a majority of the community. I think probably one out of every 4 or 5 persons that it takes to please in some way or other, the victim of a crime. The ones who are not directly involved in something, they let their friends and relatives know what kind of treatment they got and whether or not what it took to kick the problem was taken care of by the police department.
LM: Do you find many of the criticisms made by citizens that officers have been discourteous with them or they’ve have been roughed up are justified?
TE: I would say that this courtesy is definitely one of our shortcomings for various reasons, probably too numerous to mention. We get quite a few hours on that in the academy, but it has to do with not so much a personality problem, as personal problems that may transpire just before a man comes on duty, or a personal dislike in a traffic violation he may observe. His demeanor may be a direct reflection of the demeanor of the person with whom he is dealing, which is not always pleasant either.
As far as persons being roughed up, occasionally a force is used. It has to be, but I don’t know of any officers who would use force when it is not necessary.
16:33 I would say sometimes maybe too much is used, because it occurs only after it has been initiated by the other person involved. It’s pretty hard to be attacked by someone and know exactly where to stop when this person is completely subdued, and you don’t have to worry about him jumping up and kicking you in the balls again. I mean—we would like to have some indication that—you know—that that’s not going to happen, after you’ve been in one of these things, because it’s no fun out there fighting by yourself, when you look around and see maybe 30 or 40 black faces, and there’s no blue and white cars around there. I’ve been in that situation a hell of a lot of times.
LM: What’s the safest course to take in that situation?
TE: You take your 45 out and cock it and hope to hell you don’t have to use it.
LM: You’re probably touching on one problem that’s been discussed quite a bit with police work, and that is the effect of having to deal on a daily basis with the seedy side of life. Does this have an effect on the personality of a man?
TE: I think it does to some extent. It takes a well-adjusted person to be able to deal with the kind of people that we deal with every day, day in, day out, 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week and not let it get to you. That’s one of the things I used to tell rookies that I would be assigned to work with. Leave the job here, and when you get off, make friends and see what the other side of the world is like, and don’t forget and keep these friendships going, and don’t let them fall by the wayside. Association with other policemen, it’s good, and certainly some of your best friendships will be other policemen. I personally endeavor to associate with people in other professions, even to the point of maybe overdoing it. I would say I have more close friends in other professions than I do with other police officers.
LM: Are you an exception in this case in your association?
TE: [laughing] I don’t know personally. I know a lot of police officers who have made other endeavors, primarily for the reason so they don’t get in a rut of knowing just and just associating with police officers. Myself, I don’t do that. I go the Masonic lodge a lot. The Scottish Rite has a shrine, and we do have lot of police officers who are Masonic-minded and who do Masonic work. We have fewer who have gone into the shrine, and that gives me a lot of pleasure.
19:35 I’m a CB radio enthusiastic. I spend a lot of hours working with the CB radios, and I know a lot of people who use CB radio. Probably I see one or 2 cars around here with CB radio equipment, but as far as I know I’ve never talked to another police officer in the city that has a CB radio. I do a lot of water skiing and boat racing. There are only one or 2 officers who go water skiing Most of these are outside friends that have other professions.
LM: Does the police service generally lead to an isolated type of society?
TE: I would believe there’s some, but I really feel we’re getting away from that. I believe that a police officer feels that everybody’s down on him, and when he feels that way, then they’re closer together. As things ease up and pressures ease up, then they move out of this close association with other police officers and start associating with people in other professions.
LM: What type of effect does it have on a man’s family, his children, wife?
TE: It’s hard on a family. I know at one time when I was working the other days on the night shift, out of 8 officers that were assigned to that shift regularly, 6 of them were in divorce court. Through the years I’ve seen a lot of close friends that have gone that route, unfortunately.
LM: What seems to be the major cause, the hour of working conditions, or in acts of the community, or the family?
TE: I can’t answer that. We’ve kicked that question around ever since I’ve been here. I’ve been divorced once and been separated for 4 years. I don’t know the answer to that.
LM: Is there a tendency for police officers not to report a colleague who may commit an infraction of the rule?
TE: I would find that would depend on the individual and the particular infraction of the rule. I’ve never seen an officer steal anything. I have seen an officer perhaps stretch the truth a little bit whereas a matter of maybe a certain amount of force was used to make an arrest. Sometimes it’s a little easier to put a few words in a report that makes it look all right than it is to write legal statements of why somebody came up with maybe a little more serious injury than he ordinarily would have under existing circumstances. I feel that we have an honest department.
22:59 I personally would not work with a man that I knew was not honest. By the same token, I don’t believe that I would hesitate to report one who I actually knew had not just violated any of the rules because, of course, we have to have rules, but some of them seem kind of asi9 after you’ve been here 16 years. For the most part, I think just about every man down here sometime during his tour of duty will violate a rule, such as maybe not reading a newspaper in public or smoking a cigarette in public or something of this nature. As far as a major violation, I don’t know of anyone who would tolerate one.
LM: What do you look for in a partner?
TE: One of the reasons that I have worked by myself so long is that I never could find a type of person I’d want to work with. I used to like to get out there and get with them, and the rougher they were, the better I liked it. Like I said, I used to do pretty good at it. I probably made more felony arrests by myself than any team of officers working. In 1967, ’68, and ’69, I recovered over 500 stolen automobiles each of those years. That’s over—you figure the average value of $1,000 which would be conservative, that’s over a half a million dollars worth of automobiles each of those years. In ’69, over 100 of these cars were rolling, actually involved in high speed chases where you pretty well risk, but it was important as anybody else that’s around there. You try to catch these people. In ’69, there were 100 chases and the apprehension of over 100 of these people that were in stolen vehicles, only 2 of them ever went to court, and one of them because I caught him 2 times, and he was already out on probation for an auto theft anyway. That other case was, just to listen to it, the jury coming loose.
LM: Have you worked with partners often?
TE: Just from time to time. I do probably less work with a partner. You feel a guy out, and 8 hours is not too long a time to get acquainted. I would never want to—I usually get in situations where I would have 2 or 3 people in an automobile that was wanted for felony violations. A lot of times these people were armed, and I would never want to put myself in a position where I would have to depend on another person.
LM: Has police work made you cynical?
TE: Well, I like to think not, but I’m afraid it has. [laughing] We endeavor not to be. I have a very close personal friend that is a Catholic father in one of the churches, and we go water skiing frequently, and we kick this around quite a bit. We know we’re not cynical. We would like to believe that we’re not. Unfortunately, I’m afraid so.
LM: Were you this way before you joined the force?
TE: 26:28 No, when I met a person for the first time or size a person up, it’s not a good person until he shows me otherwise. He’s otherwise until he shows me a good person, and that’s a bad outlook to have, but it’s a safe one. You don’t make a lot of friends that way, but you don’t get screwed too much.
LM: There’s a popular image. I suppose it’s been transmitted through the news media and television about what the daily life of an officer is like, very romanticized. Can you give me a description of what your days are mostly like?
TE: Well, anymore I’m satisfied with a—we go to work at 6:00, and usually about the first 2 hours, or say the first hour is—the first 2 hours is fairly quiet, then it should start opening up about 8:00 when people start getting up, find they’ve been burglarized. About the next 3 hours we spend making burglary investigations. When we’re not making burglary investigations, we’re patrolling our particular districts, just looking out for things, more than looking for things.
I ride a particularly quiet district, although I do have a couple of major freeways through there, and I spend quite a bit of time on the freeways at the scene of accidents. Usually, time to get the cars out of the freeway and to make sure traffic is going on unimpeded, but also to keep other accidents from happening. Basically the afternoon hours is cruising the district.
LM: Much paperwork involved?
TE: There’s not a lot. A few years ago, a lot of guys kept these—we’re stymied by the slow report process we had. We would call in on the telephone and dictate reports to a clerk typist. Invariably, we’d get 2 or 3 reports to be made and try to make them towards the end of a shift, and everybody would do this, and it was quite a bottleneck, so they changed over to each officer writing out his own report, which it worked out a lot better. You can write the report as you take the information. It’s fresh on your memory, or you have it right there at hand, rather than trying to remember what someone told you 3 or 4 hours later.
LM: Approximately how much of your time is actually spent in apprehending criminals?
TE: 29:20 Now, on the dayshift, it would be hard to say, probably less than 5 percent, rather than traffic. We do quite a bit of traffic enforcement, which is really not apprehending criminals, but they are violators. It’s only crimes of boaters and hijackers, maybe this makes it less than 5 percent.
LM: In your court experience involving criminal cases, do you have any views on that?
TE: Well, I used to be down quite a bit on that, on the courts in Ash County. I had a very bad feeling toward the legal council that the criminal element would employ or that the state would have to employ in their behalf, because we got beat so much in good cases, with people that I knew were guilty. There’s so much evidence under the rules of evidence that they would not allow us to testify occasionally. Subsequently juries, not having this information, usually 2 of them would acquit persons who certainly needed to be penalized for their bad deeds.
LM: Did the situation improve?
TE: I don’t think so. I don’t make court that much anymore. I just quit going after the big drawing. If one comes my way, I’ll take. As far as really getting out and beating the bush, and knocking yourself out, I don’t do that anymore. I used to spend an hour to 2 hours every day prior to going on duty, which was 2 hours of my own time, barely reading offense reports to any information of clients related in my district. That was one reason I was able to catch a large number of felons, more so than other officers, because they did not take the time to read these reports and get this information. I quit doing that.
LM: Did these court problems and in court result from Supreme Court decisions?
TE: Not so much that, as just the leading of juries in this Harris County. When you got in a chase and doing it around 10 or 15 minutes, and somebody stole an automobile, and you finally catch him. He tears up the car. He bails out of it, and you have to chase him down on foot. He may or may not be armed and take a shot at you. All this information, you cannot present to a jury over there. All you can tell them is you observed him in a car, chased and pursued, and he was arrested. They’re a little reluctant to get anybody jail time for stealing an automobile.
LM: You can’t give any information concerning the time you—?
TE: Anything to run intuitive to his conduct would be grounds for reversal or the judge throwing the case out. You can’t tell about any prior convictions for auto theft or anything else he may have been wanted for at that time. Say he just hijacked something, and that you were—at one case a man was wanted for questioning and a robbery that happened about 2 weeks before, and I had just happened to spot the car on Downing Street. 2 people were in the car, and when I stopped it—and both of them had guns in their hands. They had just held up a store in a county that was not broadcast on our police channel, and I had no knowledge of, and we couldn’t even make the robbery case on it. I didn’t have a legal arrest.
LM: What was considered a legal arrest?
TE: 33:28 I had no reason to stop them.
LM: Does that happen frequently?
TE: Too often. Once is too often, but it happens occasionally. I wouldn’t say—it’s not an everyday occurrence, but it happens too much. You’re looking for somebody, maybe this car was seen at the scene of a burglary 2 or 3 weeks previous, or 2 or 3 days, or even 2 or 3 hours, and you want to talk to them about this. You stop him, and he’s got stolen merchandise in the car that came from another burglary. You’ve got to watch your step pretty closely to get the evidence in. I mean—sometimes we have to shade our activities a little bit in order to be able to get rules of evidence in. This goes against the grain to a lot of us.
First of all, we don’t like to do this, like some policemen who were accused of similar activities here awhile back. I mean—all of this is still pending. Where in the world they were doing it, I have no idea. I don’t even care. I’m not interested. I know I’ve worked on narcotic cases in my own time. A lot of hours, I couldn’t get those people out to see us. I couldn’t make out a search warrant or anything else when I had good reason to believe that people had narcotics in their possession. We wouldn’t even go to our own narcotics division here. We’d go to the county, and we got 100 percent cooperation with them every time.
LM: Why did you receive cooperation from the county and not from the department?
TE: It seemed like the county officers were fairly new men, and they were very interested in doing a good job. The sheriff had just been elected, a new sheriff, and I think they were anxious to make a good account of themselves.
LM: Is there an effect on a police officer when a new chief of police takes over?
TE: 35:45 At the bottom of the ladder, you don’t feel it. Certainly he has his way of doing things, and new orders or directives come out. Very, very few of these, I feel, directly affect the patrolman.
LM: Is there factionalism in the department, like where a group of people owe their allegiance or have strong feelings about a particular superior officer who may have feelings or allegiance to another man?
TE: To a supervisor, where a small group or say, a supervisor makes you feel partiality, or a small group of men, yes, I’m sure there is. It seems like from time to time, particularly at the time we get a new chief, then some of the inspectors or the deputy chiefs now are reassigned, and then a certain unit under their command with the captains and lieutenants and sergeants reassigned. Some patrolmen are partial to the supervisors, and they like to work for a certain supervisor, and they’ll request transfer whenever a supervisor has been transferred.
LM: I know you have an appointment, so I’ll just ask you 1 last question.
TE: We can take a little bit more time if you want.
LM: Looking back on your years that you’ve spent with the department, I’d like to ask you if you consider police service a profession, and whether this department could be considered professional.
TE: I think by and far, and particularly with the newer men that have joined the department in the last 5 years, that the professionalism is certainly increasing. We actually have 2 departments here. We have the men with over 7 years, which is the old school. Then we have about half of the department has less than 7 years of service, and they have new outlooks and a new way of doing the job. They were given training in the academy that encompasses all the changes in the laws of arrest and evidence, and they started out with this.
38:19 We started out with the old way of doing things. We had to learn the new way. I’ve seen our staff handle a lot of good men who could not do the job this way, and they either chose a new position and stayed or have left the department. Certainly the department didn’t need some of them. Consequently some of them were good men and were doing a good job, but they just didn’t agree with the new way of doing things, so rather than have a conflict, it meant a trial to them.
LM: How would you describe the new way as opposed to the old way?
TE: I think strictly going by all the guidelines set down by the Supreme Court in the past 4 or 5 years. When you go out to do the job on the street, you keep all of these things in mind constantly. We used to do a lot of our work, and a lot of our good arrests were just made on intuitions. Unfortunately there’s no place over there in the jury trial where an officer can show that kind of arrest was made on intuition or past experience or judgment. They have thrown all this out.
LM: If you had to do it all over again, would you join the force?
TE: That would be a hard one to answer, in all truthfulness, without giving it full consideration.
LM: On behalf of the Houston Metropolitan Archive Center, we’d certainly like to thank you for your cooperation. Thank you.
TE: 40:08 Not really get educated through it—which is in the police department, but as to really the last time with the ex-convicts—is the last time the police department tried on some of the committee presented states. At least, set down a minimum education requirement, height, weight, whether it be a testament on a statewide basis.
LM: I’d like to move on into an area that you had a problem in the group, and that was the intelligence bureau. Can you tell me something about its formation?
TE: The intelligence division—and when you measure intelligence, most people see some deep, dark cloak and dagger mysterious kind of combination. Well, this is really a long ways from the truth. The mission of an intelligence division is to receive, evaluate, and disseminate information. Now the information is received from many, many sources. A large percentage of it from the patrolman on the beat, a large percentage of it from the average Joe-blow that called into the—“I don’t know what’s going on around here, but there’s something just don’t look right, and they happen to be doing it on Sunday.”
They get this information from all of these sources, and then they’re evaluated. Working the way we worked, if it pertained to, say, armed robberies, as an example, we would work the information up to a certain point. If I could go in to the captain in charge of the robbery division and say, “This is what we have. We feel like that these people are going to rob a liquor store out here somewhere,” and we let that captain in the robbery division handle it with his detectives. They go out and make the arrest. They gather the evidence. They appear in court as witnesses. A million times, those people would never appear in court as witnesses.
We do use our local intelligence division, and this holds true pretty well nationwide. The primary mission is to combat all the lines of fire, and from those pictures up there, that was another part, obviously, of the protection of the various aspects of the team in Houston. We work real close with the state sheriff on the protection of the President and the Vice President and their families with the state department. Before the secret service took over the protection of foreign diplomats and foreign VIPs, we worked with the state department on that. With security of these VIPs, another important element, plus the keeping track of the various controversial groups. There’s right and left wing organizations we had to keep from committing crimes or acts of violence.
LM: What do you mean by keeping track of organizations?
TE: We maintained the information and the various members of it, such as the KKK. There are several of them. There are 3 or 4 in Dalian. There was a blowing up of this Pacifica radio station out here. Any kind of group that could possibly commit a crime or some act of violence.
LM: All right, one of the reasons I brought this up was the charges made by a member of the Socialist party, working party that always has infiltrated their organization, if you might comment on that.
TE: Really, but they didn’t filtrate it. To get all the information, most of the information that they got out, all you had to do was read the daily newspaper or sit on the corner and listen to them talk. A reasonable example of why it’s necessary to do something like this, it isn’t. We always point this out as a real classic example of what an intelligence division’s job is. If you recall Gerry Charlotte Phelps, who is currently doing a 35-year sentence in the penitentiary for all browns, and she was a professor of economics at South Texas Junior College.
The first time we heard anything about Miss Phelps was that she was casing 2 or 3 of her students, and they tell us that they didn’t like the way she was teaching economics. That she was constantly praising Castro and the Cuban government in the Communist regime, how he let off the people in Cuba. I really didn’t pay too much attention to this, but it wasn’t long after this that the Negro narcotics officers up in the narcotics division observed her and 2 Negroes parked in a car out in Fagan park, which is in a predominately black area, for over an hour. One of these blacks that were in the car with her was known to be the head man of social links of the Black Panther party at the time.
46:16 We received some information from a fellow who said that Charlotte Phelps contributed $50 for the first ranch for Black Panther party headquarters. We received information then that she was attending the Socialist Workers party meetings. The more we looked at her, really, we never dreamed before we began to look at her that we would get her 35 years in the penitentiary, find she’s participating in an armed robbery. Thanks to students, and most of this information came from seeing this right in her class. We didn’t have a shortage of informers as far as she was concerned. She was still in charge and volunteering a lot of information.
One of these students who were actually present when this robbery was being planned, and he actually threw them in and charged. Actually, I remember the robbery. In fact, I had about an 18-minute film of the actual robbery, soliciting why we lost these creeps. You just never know what maybe the group does come down on the other side of things, but there are individuals on it who do. I don’t think that the real-time membership doubled, was rare that one of their members, or a couple of their members, was the ones involved in blowing up this Pacifica radio. It’s really kind of hard to separate the good members, who stick within the guidelines of what the organization stands for, and he goes off on his own, and he commits a crime.
LM: What did you use for a (inaudible)?
ET: Sure, it was—