Organizations representing some 10,000 Harris County law enforcement officers banded together on Tuesday to denounce District Attorney Pat Lykos as being soft on crime, the Houston Chronicle reported Tuesday.
The organizations held a press conference after DA Pat Lykos’ Monday announcement that she would seek a second term. “We believe the district attorney is ignoring the laws passed by the Legislature. Valid criminal complaints brought by professional law enforcement officers are ignored or dismissed,” Eric Batton, vice president of the Harris County Deputies’ Organization, said at the presser.
The organizations delivered Lykos with a vote of no confidence, which the Chronicle’s James Pinkerton dubbed a “a rare public fissure in the traditionally close relationship between police and prosecutors.” Lykos brushed off the criticisms, holding that the unions have never been in her camp.
In particular, police criticized her unwillingness to prosecute suspects found with “trace elements” of drugs. The office’s new policy is to cite people found with drug residue of “less than one-100th of a gram” with a misdemeanor. “This is crack cocaine. People will sell their grandma’s wheelchair to get a crack rock,” said Ray Hunt, vice president of the Houston Police Officers Union.
Pinkerton wrote that Lykos “wants to go after cartels, not crack pipes.” “My focus is on dangerous criminals, not just getting arrests for the sake of having statistics,” Lykos said.
“We are not ignoring state law. What I want, is to have the drug dealer arrested, and to have the person who supplied the drugs to the dealer arrested, and then go all the way up that vicious snake, until we get to the top,” Lykos told KUHF News.
Some of the criticism could stem from Lykos’ statement that she does not want the Houston Police Department to be in charge of their own Breath Alcohol Testing vans, after reported problems with the testing labs. “Pat Lykos has made herself more vulnerable with the BAT van stuff. Surely someone senses an opportunity,” Houston political blogger Charles Kuffner wrote at Off The Kuff on Monday.
My Fox Houston’s Isiah Carey spoke to Nation of Islam’s Robert Muhammad, who saw something else at work. “This is all politics,” Muhammad said. “They now have to prove and obey the law, and every DA should’ve been doing that from the very beginning so they’ve lost their privileged position . . . I think there’s a tad bit of gender bias involved with this.” Lykos, who spent fourteen years as a felony court judge, was sworn in as District Attorney on January 1, 2009, becoming the first woman to hold the office, according to her official biography.
Murray Newman, a former Harris County prosecutor who works as a criminal defense attorney and runs a blog called Life at the Harris County Criminal Justice Center, took the opportunity to attack Lykos’ Republican bona fides. “Her administration of the job she was elected to do has flown in the face of the principles the Republican Party is typically known for,” he wrote.
Mark Campos, writing at Campos Communications, sees the unions’ snub as an opportunity for Lykos’ Democratic challengers. “All that means is that the two Dem candidates for DA are going to put on their hard-line-on-crime gear to go after the support of these groups. Let’s see if they also try to out death penalty the current DA and in the process p__s off some of the Dem base. Stay tuned!”
Back in April, the Daily Beast‘s Ben Crair penned a great profile of Lykos. “Change was the message of the 2008 election, but you wouldn’t have expected it from Pat Lykos, Houston’s chain-smoking, Cadillac-driving Republican district attorney,” he wrote, going on to detail the office’s “astonishing turnaround” in its approach to potential death penalty cases.