West University Police Chief Ken Walker took to the city’s website Friday to blast Harris County’s judiciary and the news media over the issue of the release of repeat offenders and to ask residents to speak out by contacting county officials and journalists.
He said “the failure of the criminal justice system in Harris County…to perform their duty” regarding repeat offenders is putting an extra burden on local law enforcement and endangering the public and accused local news media of “not properly covering this dangerous situation.”
That has “pushed the problem back down to the local level,” he wrote. “Police officers throughout Harris County are arresting the same people who have been released by the courts, which has made the Houston metro area and more specifically West U residents and our officers less safe.”
The chief posted a video of a news conference of law enforcement and criminal justice leaders Tuesday in which he participated, as well as a statement from the president of the Texas Police Chiefs Association.
At that news conference, Walker told of an incident the day before where a West U police officer and two fire-EMS personnel responded to a distress call of a man who told them he had COVID-19 and transported him for treatment. They later learned he was a habitual criminal out on bond.
“I may have a police officer and two firefighters who were exposed because he wasn’t in a cell,” Walker said.
The WUPD has yet to contact the media with details of that incident. The department does issue a weekly crime report, listing prior offenses of suspects it arrests, and occasionally releases public and media alerts about incidents or wanted suspects caught on video.
The chief asked West U residents to watch the video and then, “if you are concerned about the safety of our community I ask that you do two things: first contact Harris County elected officials to voice your concern and two talk to anyone you may know in the media and ask why they’re not properly covering this dangerous situation.”
The immediate social media response to the chief’s outreach was mixed, with some accusing him of oversimplifying and politicizing a complex situation, and others supporting his concerns for the community’s safety and praising him for speaking up.