Might Houston Police Chief’s Bluntness About Homicide Detective’s Firing – Even if True – End Up Costing His City and His Agency?
By Ken K. Gourdin
In my on-line travels I just stumbled across a story from a few months ago from Houston’s Eyewitness News 13 about a former Houston homicide sergeant who was fired for untruthfulness and insufficient case follow-up. (That’s not how Houston Police Chief Charles McLelland put it, which is why I commented.) See the following address, last accessed April 25, 2017: http://abc13.com/news/documents-detail-homicide-sergeants-missteps/27062/. I wrote:
From the story: “He was lazy. He was a liar,” HPD Police Chief Charles McClelland said last week. “He was not forthright with his supervisors and he misled his other co-workers.”
I have been both critical of and complimentary to law enforcement (depending on what I think is warranted) both in print under my own byline and on line. I admire forthrightness, Chief McClelland, but as much as I admire forthrightness, I think you need to be careful. Your blunt phrasing has the potential to open both your city and your agency up to litigation.
As much as the average reader or observer might be tempted to dismiss the more precise use of language as simple politically correct pussyfooting, there is a reason why people use such language as, “He was not as diligent as he could have been” (i.e., he was lazy) and, “His report(s), his account(s), and his testimony do not match the facts” (i.e., he’s a liar).
You might say, “Hey, not to worry: I can prove that he’s lazy, and I can prove that he’s a liar.” That may very well be true, and, in the long run, you may prevail. But even litigation that ultimately is fruitless to a plaintiff still costs time, money, and other resources to defend against.