Less than a year has passed since planning our first meeting at El Toro's new restaurant and it appears the BCC - Baytown Concerned Citizens, in our zeal to accommodate BPD, has lost track of its original intent. We started out determined to hold the police department management accountable for stemming and controlling crime. We were angry and wanted results.
What we have evolved into, as a group, is a flag-waving patriotic police support group with a quasi-religious zeal instead. Log onto the website designed to report and discuss crime and mildly suggest anything negative concerning the police department, or heckfire - any police department and you will be angrily rebuked, chastised for being unsupportive and your patriotism will be questioned.
What happened? Let's back up to August 11th, 2007 where I wrote: "Citizens are sick and tired of the wave of increasingly violent and bold crime we are experiencing and if there is indeed strife inside the ranks of our police department, it needs to come to a halt immediately. We need cohesion inside BPD for it to be effective, especially at a time like this".
"The goal of Baytown Concerned Citizens will be to work with City Council and the Baytown Police Department to stop crime in its tracks. At no time are we advocating violence or vigilante justice. We are however actively recruiting vigilant and observant citizens, who are willing to make that 911 phone call to stop crime and make our city a place felons are reluctant to visit".
I want to go on record right off the bat and say I am in full support of our police department and in all fairness; they are working their hocks off to provide a secure city. Captain David Alford and I are in frequent communication and he is very sincere in his efforts towards satisfying our crime watch group. However, history is full of examples that police departments are at their best when citizen groups hold them accountable and sometimes that means criticizing them. My complaint today is more about us citizens, then about BPD.
For this growing city to prosper, we citizens must be vigilant and do our part to maintain and abide by its laws. That's a given. We must police our own actions, by stopping at stop signs, driving the speed limit and calling 911 when we see something amiss. Don't scream foul when a cop gives you a ticket because you did not come to a complete halt before you turned right on red, or failed to strap your kids down while driving. You broke the law and it's their job and duty to enforce the law.
One year ago, I made many Baytonians very angry when I headed up the first town meeting to confront the police department and ask them why crime was out of control. The reason I made citizens madder (they were already mad at the police's inability to stop crime) is because I asked everyone to write down their complaints and I would post them on the Web AND give the police department time to post a response, instead of blind-siding them with angry verbal outbursts.
I stated over and over that our intent was to work with the police department through the formation of crime prevention groups, but we had every intention of holding them responsible in the future. Our defense against crime is to make phone calls – as many as it takes. Nothing has changed in our strategy.
Now granted, there has been major changes in the police department in the last year and I'm convinced it will take time for all the changes to iron out and all the vacancies filled, however the general attitude of the BCC group has changed from a group of citizens holding their police department accountable to one of a grandstand full of cheerleaders.
At the original town meeting Barrett Goldsmith quoted me as saying: "We don't care how we got here. What we care about it how to get us out of here, If there have been problems at City Hall or the police department, we don't care about it. We want to fix it. We're not going for a long-term score; we just want to get the ball rolling. We've done it in the most civil way possible, but we really do need some answers."
We still need answers and we can't get them if we are eating at the table of those we should be holding accountable. We cannot get so involved in the inner workings of the police department, or so chummy that we become critical of anyone who asks for accountability. We still don't care if the police department is understaffed – that is not our problem. Fix it. We do not want to hear that our crime watch group is calling too often and bleeding off resources – we just want it fixed. Nothing has changed in our strategy.
Last year I met with Charles "T-Bone" Schaffer and gladly listened closely to his advice and there was talk at the time of bringing him into the BCC leadership as an advisor, however, I was against it and told him I could not see it happening, as he was obviously pro-police biased and there may come a time when the citizens would have to be critical of the police. I consider him a friend and I listen whenever he talks.
Over and over the message generated by the police department and myself has been personal accountability in our own behavior and at our homes if we want to stem crime. We are told to organize crime watch groups and call, call and call again whenever anything is suspect. Our neighborhood, Chaparral Village has taken this to heart and we have a large active group who communicate on a mailing list. We drive our streets at night, see stuff and phone it in.
Over the last 10 months, we have been very vocal online and to the news media about our drag racing, street racing or just fast car driving problem and almost everyone has heard about it. Some of the racers live in this neighborhood, but many do not. Word on the street is we are simply crying wolf and that we really don't have much more than exaggerated hysterics going on here by a couple of individuals, even to the point where an officer responding to the deadly crash of a 34 year old man on a high-speed motorcycle implied we CV residents were leaching off assets over our constant whining.
I sarcastically semi-quoted our police chief (from a Baytown Sun article) on the crime watch website "Of course, we don't really have a racing problem in CV, just some high school kids celebrating school being let out" and one of our police officers responded "Looks like someone is trying to capitalize on a tragedy to satisfy their own agenda" and this, fellow Baytown Concerned Citizens is an example of how the BCC crime website has been turned into nothing more than a place where only high-fiving our police department is acceptable and has lost all objectivity in my book.
I am all but through posting on this web site and recently told the Webmaster (and original "Fab 5" leader) the reasons for my reticence was the web site's obvious deviation from the original intent. We citizens need to do our part and for the most part, we are, but we also need a web site that remains objective and which holds our public servants accountable.
Many of us are exasperated and frustrated over something as criminally innocuous as racing (and tragically deadly) and we are told to call and call and call and if that is our only recourse, then we do not want to hear an officer suggest we are stripping the available police department resources with our many calls. We will not take matters into our own hands, so if we need more cops, then dagnabit, we need to get more. Nothing has changed in our strategy.
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