Galveston County Police News Circa 2006-2008

 

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The current website for the Galveston County Police News is http://www.galvnews.com/news/police
The content below is from the site's 2006-2008 archived pages and is typical of what could be found on the site.

 

2006

February 2006 Galveston County Police News

  • IAATI On Police Pursuits
  • Galveston Police Search For Armed Assailant
  • Alvin man found dead in vehicle
  • DWI suspect sought after courtroom no-show
  • Fight over ambulance service won't go away
  • Firetruck joyride doesn't ring a bell
  • Galveston Police Department Hiring
  • Galveston Police Fugitive Notification
  • Horse lovers rescue animals in need
  • Houston-Galveston Area Council Awards Radio Interoperability Contract
  • Man is put to death for '94 Houston slayings
  • MARDI GRAS! GALVESTON
  • Mother, daughter injured in rollover
  • Texas City Police Daily Crime Report
  • Two more named in check fraud
  • What's On Your Mind Today?
  • Retiring officer took on difficult jobs
  • Church volunteer charged with indecency with child, 2 counts sexual assault
  • Ferry lines may be history for a fee
  • GCSO Warrant List Update

 

 

2007

 

Open Records Not Always Easy to Unlock

By Sara McDonald
The Daily News
Published June 10, 2007
Joe Collins started out just trying to prove a point. Along the way, he found a separate issue worth arguing over.

When his wife, Melissa, a former Friendswood police patrol officer, was suspended and resigned over a list of offenses that he said were fabricated, he set out to prove the department wrong.

Getting that evidence through open records requests turned out to be harder than he thought.

Suspicious Suspension

Melissa Collins' supervisors accused her of sending out inappropriate e-mails ' specifically one joking about other police departments that ended up in her personnel file, Joe Collins said.

The problem, Joe Collins said, is that his wife received that e-mail from a supervisor, and it was the least offensive of many crude messages circulating around the office.

When she resigned, she signed an agreement promising not to file any open records requests or talk publicly about the department. In exchange, the department promised a favorable recommendation.

But Joe Collins said Friendswood broke its end of the deal when a job was offered and then taken away after the prospective employer talked to Friendswood police ' a matter that the couple is suing the city over.

The problems led Joe Collins to file an open records request of his own, asking for all the outgoing e-mails from the police department in the past few years.

Search for Answers

That search has stretched more than a year, costing more than $1,000 and resulted in little else besides frustration.

The city recently told him it would be August ' at the earliest ' when his requests were ready.

State law allows only 10 days for most open records requests to be filled. Extensive requests, such as Collins', are supposed to be filled in a reasonable amount of time.

The problem is, the law doesn't say what is reasonable and what isn't.

Attorney Joe Larsen, a board member of the Texas Freedom of Information Association of Texas, said he thought the city had already taken enough time.

"It sounds unreasonable to me," he said. "A year should be ample time."

Larsen said Texas open records law requires government agencies to give requestors an estimated finish time if they can't provide the information in 10 days. Friendswood has changed that estimated finish date many times, Joe Collins said.

"I've got a folder full of letters from them," he said.

The city isn't talking about what is taking so long to fulfill the requests. Friendswood Police Chief Bob Wieners said he didn't want to comment on the case and City Attorney John Olson said he didn't know about the case.

Reasonable Delays?

City Secretary Deloris McKenzie, who oversees all the open records requests that go into the city, said the volume of the Collins request is what has caused the delay.

"That's the only reason that there is," she said.

But an e-mail released as part of an open records request that The Daily News filed suggests that some of the delays might be on purpose.

An e-mail from Karen Peterson, the records specialist in the police department, discussed giving Collins a new completion date.

She also suggested she might, "perhaps add a couple weeks to my end date," when telling Collins when the records would be ready.

The e-mail also discussed the lengthy process in making sure no confidential information was released.

"What I don't think Collins realizes that we have to review every e-mail because we were granted some exceptions," the e-mail says. "We will take advantage of the exceptions that we have been granted and that is what is taking so much time."

That means that every e-mail that has information that might reveal information about an investigation could be withheld ' something that Joe Collins, who is also a law enforcement officer, said he doesn't mind.

But Wieners pointed out that simply asking to withhold those e-mails takes time.

"With the open records, we can't say 'no' to anything," he said. "Even though we think there might be solid standing for exclusion, we still have to go send it off to the attorney general."

What Joe Collins said he worried about was the fact that he's not sure he'll be able to tell if the city really turns over the information.

That's nothing that can truly be guaranteed for any government agency, Larsen said.

So far, Joe Collins has gotten a few disks with a handful of e-mails on them. Attachments aren't always still there ' which could be crucial to his argument.

He's also wondering if he'll ever really see all the e-mails, and when.

"Do they have any accountability for these dates they set?" he said. "I don't see any."

Not the Only Problem

Joe Collins said he didn't know much about open records law last year when it all began.

"Most people go into this with a blind eye," he said. "I'm hard-headed. I'm not going to give up on this. This entire process feels like they're trying to deter us from asking for this stuff."

He's not the only one feeling that way. Brett Nichols, a developer whose plans for the Friendswood golf course have stirred up dissention in the Sun Meadow neighborhood and at city hall, has had problems, too.

In April, Nichols was told that documented complaints about the golf course didn't exist, and later, found that they did. In May, he filed an open records request for a map of the proposed comprehensive plan changes.

Once again, Nichols was told that the document didn't exist. But Nichols has a bootleg copy of the map ' something that he said proves that the city is denying his requests.

"They know what I want," Nichols said. "They just don't want to give it to me. They won't talk about it."

Nichols said he is considering filing a complaint with the attorney general's office.

McKenzie said that every time she sends out Nichols' request to city department heads, they say there is no such document.

"I don't know what his copy is of," she said. "I've been advised that no documentation exists."

The problems incite suspicion from Nichols and Collins that open records requests are sometimes handed over more freely to city hall favorites.

Potential Abuse

Wieners said the police department recognizes the public's right to information. That doesn't mean they have a right to use the Open Records Act as a way to undermine investigations.

Last week, Friendswood agreed on a settlement with the attorney general's office about an open records case where a suspected drug dealer requested badge numbers and photos of all Friendswood police officers. In that instance, the city sued to protect the identities of undercover officers.

Wieners said that was a case of someone trying to abuse the system.

Friendswood Mayor David Smith said he's also heard about people filing open records requests to try to create an appearance of government wrong-doing or simply to be an inconvenience.

"If they're doing research because something is wrong, then bring it up," he said. "Clearly, it makes me wonder if it's not that, are they looking for anything to create a problem?"

'Not Systematic'

Smith said he didn't think the problems the Collins were facing were symptoms of a bigger problem.

He said he didn't know about their case, but said he thought that the city complies with open records law as best it can.

"There is not a systematic problem here," Smith said. "Is it always perfect? No, but nothings is. They do 95 percent of their job very, very well. I try not to dwell on the 5 percent very much."

 

2008

Posted on: Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Motorcycle pile-up claimed two lives
Ben Boren and Don Jackson die in flaming crash

Posted on: Tuesday, July 8, 2008 Funeral services for Deputy Ben Boren announced I somehow got my motorcycle stopped a few feet from Mr. Boren when this tragic accident happened. I was the 4th. bike behind Donald Jackson. I tried everything to save this man, I did compressions, then looked at him and said outloud 'man I hate to do this' and I tried to breath life back into him. I typed his name into the browser yesterday and pages came up, tv stations, newspapers, etc. and today I'm starting to get some true and real feelings of who he was, what he stood for, and the important things to him. I pray God will give strength and comfort to all the family, friends, co workers, and loved ones during this time of grief and in days to come. Immediately after I got back into Lufkin the 4th. many from our church where gathered and we prayed the same as above. And then yesterday we had a funeral for Donald Jackson and his widow, his children, and the house full of teens he had just adopted all prayed for Mr. Boren's family and friends too, this sentence tells the kind of man Don was. He served in Nam, raised a family of upstanding kids, then adopted some more. His main concern the 4th was one of those he had just adopted that was riding with us. You see there was only 7 bikes riding together when this accident happened, but we had started out with another 18, but Don and I and four others kept getting behind between our stopping points because Don was "watching out for that boy" as he told me at our last rest stop not 5 minutes before he died. Two fine men died and only God knows why, neither was carelessly driving drunk, on hard drugs, or reckless, it was an accident pure and simple. Nathan Merritt Huntington, Tx.

+++

Texas should start a motorcycle safety campaign

Faye Leonhardt - Galveston
July 9, 2008
Thoughts on recent Motorcycle Accidents... I live in Galveston County Texas and we are seeing more motorcycles on the streets due to the price of gas. We are also having a lot of deadly accidents involving motorcycles in this area. I personally would like to see a push for motorcycle safety to the general driving public. Drivers need to be more aware of motorcycle riders. Just like you watch the road conditions, you should be aware of not just the cars around you but those on 2 wheels that need more attention. I would like the State of Texas to put up signs to remind drivers to watch out for motorcycles, just like they do with seat belts and littering. It seems as gas prices go up - people's attention span lessens and we have had some horrible accidents in the past few months involving motorcycles. I am all for the helmet law to go back in effect, because to me, wearing a helmet is like wearing a seat belt. Sure it would be nice to not be strapped in, but how many lives have seat belts saved in accidents. Sure it would be nice to ride a motorcycle with the wind blowing thru your hair (those that have hair) but if you are involved in an accident wouldn't it be nice to have your main control center protected? I don't ride a motorcycle yet, but I have ridden with friends and I know from experience that people pay very little attention to motorcycles. I think its time Texas starts a motorcycle safety campaign. We owe it to those that have lost their lives in motorcycle accidents.
Faye Leonhardt

+++

 

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