Pubdate: Sun, 30 May 1999 
Source: Houston Chronicle (TX) 
Copyright: 1999 Houston Chronicle 
Author: Thom Marshall


At least once a week, Bryant Reed of La Porte finds himself wondering how
many police agencies we have watching us and why we need so many.

Reed recently wrote in an e-mail, "In this area, we have HPD, Sheriff's
Department, Metro PD, constables, U.S. Marshals, the Houston ISD PD, highway
patrol, the Texas Rangers, the FBI, and, I swear, the other day I saw a
Harris County Hospital District police car."

I, too, have wandered down the trail of speculation about law enforcement
proliferation. Writing down just the agencies that came quickly to mind, I
came up with more than 20, including district attorney investigators, game
wardens, postal inspectors and federal officers with the INS, DEA, ATF, CIA ...

Once, some time ago, I decided to make a few calls and find out just how
many policing agencies and the total number of cops of all kinds we have in
our town.

That would include all levels -- city, county, state, federal. And it also
would count some cops that wouldn't fall precisely under those umbrellas,
such as those who work for public school or university police forces.

Houston area has no list In other words, I was after a total of all officers
with badges and guns who are  empowered to enforce laws, investigate crimes
or pursue criminals. It would not include the employees of myriad private
security companies.

(Someone at the Harris County Hospital District said the security department
uses contract security officers, so I might not count that as a police
agency. On the other hand, a friend who has for years been a public
information officer for the police department and the sheriff's office, in
another city, noted that railroad companies have private police departments
whose officers have "full-blown" commissions. So I might count them.)

Coming up with an inventory of police agencies and a total number of cops
initially struck me as a simple task. It is a basic element of policing,
after all, to keep detailed records. And since police are employed by the
public and were created to serve the public, I figured the public ought to
have little trouble getting the

I figured there must be someone somewhere in town who had a reason for
maintaining the sort of listing that I sought, and would have made it widely
available, and with a phone call or two, I could find someone to fax me a copy.

But if any such person and any such list does exist in Houston, my attempts
to find them were fruitless. I wound up putting that idea on a back shelf
until Reed's message provided the motivation to try again.

This time I decided to try an indirect approach to finding out about police
agencies in Houston. I called Huntsville, where Sam Houston State University
has the College of Criminal Justice and the Bill Blackwood Law Enforcement
Management Institute of Texas.

No, they told me. They didn't have the Houston statistics I was after, but
they suggested trying a couple of other places, starting with the Texas
Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education in Austin,
which wouldn't have any federal agencies but might be able to provide much
of the rest.

A paperwork hurdle in Austin So, as much as I hated doing it, I called
Austin to ask for information about  Houston. A fellow there said they might
be able to pull out of the computers the numbers I was after. But I must
first file a formal Freedom of Information request, telling precisely what I
want, and they will look it over and let me know if they can provide it and
how much it will cost.

Proving yet again that we should never have allowed the capitol of Texas to
be moved out of our town.

The other suggestion was that I call Stevens Point, Wis., where the National
Public Safety Information Bureau publishes the National Directory of Law
Enforcement Administrators, which lists more than 35,000 agencies all over
This Great Land. I did call Wisconsin for information about Houston, though
it seemed even stranger than calling Austin, and they said the new book with
updated statistics won't be ready for a month or so and will cost pretty
close to a hundred bucks. And I'm not convinced it would contain the
exhaustive count of all police agencies doing business in our town that we
are after. 

So let's just make it a project to compile our own inventory of police
agencies and officers from all levels of government in the greater Houston
area. Anyone with information to contribute can send it, and I'll keep
making calls, and we'll see what we come up with.

- ---
MAP posted-by: Jo-D