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Fort Bend County, At Large
By Cheryl Skinner

This column expresses the personal opinions/views of the writer. If you would like to express your opinions/views regarding the column, write a SIGNED letter to the editor. Name can be withheld by request with a valid day time phone number.

Sensitivity training needed?

You can’t help but wonder who in the world trains some of the people at the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office. While there are a lot of public servants there and they do their job well, there are obviously some who need serious “sensitivity training” or just a plain old lecture on common sense.

Recently a resident of Canyon Gate subdivision came to speak to Fort Bend County Commissioners about a noise problem. She said in court that she had contacted the Sheriff’s Office “numerous times” without any resolution or help. In fact she had been told, she said, that the business generating the noise had just as much right to be noisy as she, her family and neighbors had to sleep.

She isn’t the first person to ask for the court’s help with a problem related to law enforcement after calling the sheriff’s office and getting this type of response. One lady, who lives in the Mission Bend Subdivision, came asking for help a few months ago. She said dozens of trips and calls to the SO went nowhere. She was having problems with a group of young people who she claimed were terrorizing the neighborhood. The woman went all the way up the ladder to the sheriff himself. She said she was told move if the neighborhood was so bad. Oh, my gosh—how understanding and sensitive is this response?

OK—there is no noise ordinance in the unincorporated areas of Fort Bend County. So, I found it somewhat interesting that other police officers seemed to think this lady could be referred to the TABC for some sort of resolution. Did the deputies or dispatchers who were so lacking in public relations skills not know the laws? Or, did they just feel this citizen was a pain and should go away?

I’ve been around law enforcement enough to know it is no easy job and citizens often do have a misconception of what a police officer can and can’t do and what is a real law or something seen on CSI. My elderly mother recently called Houston Police after she was the victim of a large burglary. In the middle of the chaos left behind was a disgusting deposit of human excrement.

She wanted HPD to come out and get it and do a DNA test. Luckily, they didn’t laugh her off the planet—instead they patiently explained that the police lab was in crisis and her burglary was one of thousands. She wasn’t happy, but she wasn’t angry. Another time, she called the police because a neighborhood trouble maker rode around on a bicycle wearing a ski-mask. For some reason she thought it was an offense for the young man to wear a mask and despite me telling her that was not the case, she insisted on calling the police and not believing them either when they said it wasn’t against the law. After all, she said, it was a solid black ski-mask which obviously should be against the law. Again, she wasn’t happy, but she wasn’t angry.

My mother lamented over the lax laws and the fact that DNA tests weren’t routine (as seen on TV) but she didn’t feel compelled to go to a city of Houston council meeting to speak out against the cops.

Seems like here some of the law enforcement folks are getting by with attacking the messenger. No matter how small or frivolous a complaint is, it should be taken seriously and people should be treated with respect. I would think some of the SO hierarchy, upon hearing the statements made by various citizens in public meetings, would take steps to make sure their employees deal with the public in a sensitive manner to prevent frustration levels from reaching the “go to commissioner’s court” level.

Some say this type of response is common-place. I hope not. Others say the club the lady complained about is a regular hang-out for some of the top echelon at the SO and that is why nothing was done and the lady was not told about the TABC option. I hope not.

Whatever the reason, it is time for the powers that be on Ransom Road to take a very close look at the day to day operations and how some of the employees interact with citizens. Fort Bend County residents should not be treated like second class citizens, even if they call in for stupid things like breaking a ski-mask ordinance. If HPD can be sensitive, so can Fort Bend County Sheriff’s office.


Contact skinnerc1@tconline.net, if you would like to express your opinions/views regarding the column. Write a SIGNED letter to the editor with valid day time phone number--name can be withheld by request.

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   Last Update:  November 28, 2007