The Houston City Attorney’s Office sent out a memo to the Houston Police Department recently advising officers to not arrive in court until 1:00 PM, even if they are ordered by a judge to arrive at 8:00 AM. Their reasoning? It will save taxpayers money because the city won’t have to pay as much in overtime to officers who arrive early and have to wait around for hours before the trial begins.
While it is true that the trial might not start at the time you are required to arrive at the courthouse, those going in to fight a ticket still have to arrive at 8 AM, or they are forced to pay the fine. Regular citizens can’t ignore the judges’ order and arrive at 1:00, but HPD officers can? (note: this isn’t meant to be negative against officers! I am against the City Attorney’s Office advice to the officers). Sure, this policy might save money as a whole, but it doesn’t save money for the people who have to take off of work a whole day to fight a ticket. Basically, they are hoping that people will give up waiting around and pay the fine. As Americans, we are allowed to face our accusers in court, but they sure are making it hard on us!
Gary Blankinship of the Houston Police Officers’ Union said that he is telling officers to ignore the City Attorney’s request and that officers should arrive in court at the time they are ordered by the judge (See article here). I think this is a wise policy decision for the Union and HPD to take.
The real issue here is that our municipal court system isn’t run smoothly. Changes must be made to make it easier on us and on our hard-working officers. We cannot afford for them to sit around all day waiting for court! We need a fast process so that both HPD officers and civilians can get in and out and back to work quickly.