Monday, July 21, 2008

What happened to the Baytown Concerned Citizens group?

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.


Anonymous said...

I agree Bert, I stopped posting also and deleted all my posts off that website.

I critiqued a subject regarding the police department recently and a policemen immediately began attacking and defending the BPD as well as Itchy, site moderator.
I was PM'd by another poster and informed that Family Guy was a baytown Police man and Explorers Captain, whatever, like that should scare me away from my opinion.

I pointed out that I did not realized that the website was supported and ran by BPD.

Itchy hollered real quickly that it was not.
LOL what a joke it has all become.

Anonymous said...

I actually agree with Bert on the direction this website has taken, don't get me wrong I partake just as much as the next guy... well maybe not so much as some of the other people here, but I digress.

we started out as a watch group, and have evolved into something different, I have no problems with supporting the police at all, but calling out problems, and supporting the officers seems to have taken a back seat to copying news articles.

ROB 281

Anonymous said...

I have never met BB, but I have much respect for anyone that is more of a doer than a talker, and it seems BB gets things done others only chatter about. His neighborhood watch is likely the most proactive in the city, and a fine example of what more of us should be doing.

That said, I think the article above would have made a great post and discussion here (and still will), but getting it published in the paper was in poor taste.
If the real 'agenda' is about actively targeting crime in the city, then this site is the best thing going, and I would think it much better to stand at the front of the boat and suggest a correction in course rather than throw anchor and jump off the back.


Anonymous said...

I agree Bert


Anonymous said...

I fail to understand how Bert's article being published in the local newspaper was in "poor taste". If the purpose is to raise awareness or reach as many people as possible, the newspaper is the place to put your thoughts and comments if that avenue is available to you. Posting the article here would only reach those few people who regularly log in to see what is going on.


Anonymous said...

My Google Alerts brought me here today! Thank goodnes!
I hope you will fairly approve these comments.

Poppy-cock to you who do not know of what you speak. Come live here for a while. The drug bust in the park was just imagination? The extrodinarily high numbers of convicted sex offenders around Crocket elemntary are just ghosts?
The school busstop flasher is a pipe dream? The horrible tragedy of a dead guy in pieces in a neighbor's yard is manipulation? Bert is not doing this alone you know. There are over 35 families that are actively involved in trying to make this a better community for our children. We don't all agree like any organization but we are glad to have someone willing to speak in public for us.

That leaves about 465 families that do stupid things like leave their valuables in plain site, leave thier garage doors open, have dangerous "domestic" problems, deal drugs out of their homes and near my back yard, #THE PARK#, and run stop signs!

I hosted the last meeting and we discussed a lot of relevant and irrelevant things. Captain Alford was very informative and like Bert says, Sincere! However, all we CAN do is report and we will continue to do so until there is no reason for it any more. We can't materialize more personnel for BPD. We have to wait for the new ones to be trained, the ones that leave, to be replaced and the light duty officers to get well. That is a personnel problem that needs to be "HOLLERED" about until someone hears. In Newspapers, on TV, The Radio, The Goodyear blimp, Times Square, Austin, DC, if that's what it takes. What is NOT in good taste is attacking a group of people, and Bert is a PART of the group, while you have nothing contructive to offer, don't use up your time, money and gasoline patrolling and watching, nor do you seem to make many 911 calls. I assume you think Chaparral Village is hogging all the air time and resources so why call? How do you measure effectiveness if you have no baseline? Everything looks wonderful if there are no reports! IT IS NOT OUR REPONSIBILITY and NOT OUR PROBLEM TO FIX THE RESOURCES. We just want it to be done ASAP. In the real world if you don't perform, what happens to you and your organization? Yes, we need a "pretty" city to look at. First make sure we won't be killed doing the looking! Are there other neighborhhods that need attention? You bet! Get together and DO SOMETHING! Now go for it. There is no hysteria here! Come measure all the skid marks in the community. Come hold hands and cry with us at the wreaths. Come pray with us that God in his mercy will protect us all. DO SOMETHING.
EV.... I refuse to be anonymous even if that's how I have to post!

Charles said...

Betty, I've never seen Bert take credit for HP. He has, however, corrected this on various forums...multiple time in fact. This guy (BB) has done more to make this a better city than 99% of anyone here complaining. Grow up people!


Anonymous said...

Having worked directly with Baytown PD at two GCCISD schools,,and having several former students whom are Baytown PD officers,, I respect,,admire an appreciate the job they do with limited resources.
BUT, on the other hand, the last two times I tried to phone in information to the PD, not a 911 emergency, just helpful reports, it was difficult as best, either the system is faulty, or the station is undermanned,, but it took over 15 minutes or so,, to speak to an officer, must less the desk Sargent.. Then more recently I left a message for an officer to follow up with a phone call to me,, never got that phone call, and I had met with him earlier on the same matter.. He did not get the message,, NO DOUBT.
I don't belong to the BCC, have gave up on Baytown as a place to retire, high taxes, higher crime, an politicians whom don't seem to give a darn.. Doug T, retired GCCISD,, USN CPO retired

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you Bert. Sadly, the board has degenerated into a bunch of people who want to give high fives to the PD. I'm not saying that's a bad thing. I'm saying that the idea is that someone has to be able to step back and say "Hey, this needs to be changed..." It seems that if you question or suggest something is wrong they question your motives or suggest you are somehow unpatriotic or unsupportive or the PD. It's a shame but was bound to happen on a board run by police. If it had been a more civilian run organization, it might have done better.

I've had the same experience with PD saying things like that when I call. During one call, when a vicious dog attacked our pet and one of us in the dead of the night, the PD officers kept acting like we were making it up. When we called to report drug activity or other issues repeatedly (as the suggest we do) we were ignored.

The problem goes far beyond that board and it's why I stopped posting there. I really think PD needs to consider what is going on there because the board is semi official the way that it's being run. It's setting up the city for a lawsuit at some point and successfully splintering and alienating the people it is suppose to reach.

I loved your article, it took a lot of courage to write. Everyone has the freedom of speech and no matter what anyone "thinks" this wasn't a private matter. Dirty laundry shouldn't stay in the hamper, it belongs in the washer and out on the line so that it can be CLEANED up!

I wish I felt like I could post here other than anonymously without raising heckles in the community, but obviously there are people who believe freedom of speech is only a myth.

Anonymous said...

This is an example of a post you can't post on without someone screaming foul -

An internal affairs report says a Daytona Beach police officer demanded free coffee and tea from a Starbucks and threatened employees with slower emergency response times if they refused.
Lt. Major Garvin, a 15-year veteran, was fired July 8. According to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Chief Mike Chitwood says Garvin recently failed a polygraph test that he insisted on taking.
The coffeehouse's employees claim that since June 2007, Garvin had visited the store as many as six times a night while on duty. Besides demanding free drinks, workers complained that Garvin also cut in front of paying customers.


Anonymous said...

I just wanted to say I don't know if you are still active on the site there..but I'm sad to say I see what you've been talking about. your article turned out to be so right, it's disgusting, and I'm tired of getting on. it's not a free and open board to comment on, If you don't go along with the group, your bashed. there hypocrits, they don't want ppl to criticize the job of the bpd when they are failing, but they want to go after a council man...they are not above anyone...

Anonymous said...

I only just read this (7/30/09). I have to say that I absolutely agree with what you have to say.

When the board first started up, I loved the idea that I could give back to my community, offering helpful hints when I could.

Now, it seems that it is a cheerleader site for BPD, as well as an engine for right-wing propoganda and misinformation? Why should people be harassed for calling out the police, or for disagreeing with the majority political affiliation?

The board has turned from a decent site for people to make their city safer and to meet their neighbors, into a farce of a website, which is more jokes and political talk, that I don't even enjoy visiting, anymore.

What is all the fuss about?

I am seriously scratching my head over the state of our country and the political warfare between not only the 2 parties, but amon...