Internal Investigation Shows The Houston PD's Narcotics Units Was An Unsupervised Mess

from the enforcing-the-law-by-breaking-most-of-it dept

The Houston PD decided to take a look at itself after a botched drug raid ended with two people killed by officers. The raid was predicated on pure bullshit. Officer Gerald Goines turned two Houston residents into dangerous drug traffickers by using a nonexistent confidential informant, drugs Goines had stashed in his squad car, and a narrative unsupported by any actual facts. Claims of heroin trafficking by a violent drug dealer were undercut by the raid itself, which turned up no heroin or the gun the (fake) informant claimed he saw.

Officer Goines is now former officer Goines. He’s facing multiple state and federal charges, including two counts of felony murder. This sort of thing doesn’t just happen. It’s not an anomaly formed in a pristine environment. The almost-nonexistent oversight of the Houston PD’s drug warriors led directly to Goines’ deadly concoctions. An internal review of the drug unit by the Houston PD shows officers operated with indifference, carelessness, and negligence. Officer Goines may have been the worst of the 175 officers, but he was far from the only one abusing the system to engage in unsupervised drug warrior freelancing. (via Grits For Breakfast)

The report’s authors wrote that while reviewing Goines and Bryant’s casework from 2016 to 2019, they found 404 errors and a “high level of administrative errors and overall lack of attention to detail” while completing required paperwork.

Auditors found that in the 84 casefiles they reviewed, Goines submitted evidence late 48 percent of the time (40 times) and made unauthorized informant payments 18 times. A quarter of the cases he filed — 21 — did not have tactical plans, the critical documents that officers create showing how they plan to carry out a search warrant raid.

Four times, investigators found cases with no search warrant on file. Three cases included problems where there was inadequate documentation about the case’s informant. Two dozen cases lacked case review sheets. Auditors found discrepancies in Goines’ expenses 23 times. In two cases, there were discrepancies in evidence, and another two cases, evidence submission slips were missing.

The full report [PDF] breaks this down by officer. It appears Officers Goines and Bryant had developed a working relationship that made bending/breaking rules easier. When working together, they relied heavily on “controlled buys.” This made it easier to obtain cash from supervisors who seemed unwilling to ask questions — even when the officers failed to submit paperwork or justify expenditures. In some cases, it appears payments to CIs were broken up into smaller chunks to avoid mandated supervisory reviews. In other cases, Goines and Bryant did not get approval for payments or paid well above the going rate for information leading to very small drug busts.

The sloppiness of officers’ work was indirectly encouraged by the indifference of their supervisors.

The audit also found “overwhelmingly” the need to improve administrative procedures, specifically, supervisory review of case files and case tracking. About 25 percent of the time, supervisors failed to sign case file review sheets, and auditors found many cases were turned in six months to a year late — far longer than the 10 working days allotted by policy.

And the problems go all the way to the top. Police Chief Art Acevedo has been holding onto this report for weeks, refusing to allow the public to see just how corrupt and unrestrained his narcotics division is. Acevedo finally released the report (via Twitter) after the Houston Chronicle released a series of articles discussing the department’s lack of transparency. This unconventional release may have been additionally prompted by another set of criminal charges being brought against police officers by the Houston DA.

Prosecutors probing a Houston police narcotics unit announced charges against six former officers tied to a fatal 2019 drug raid. Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg accused the former officers of lying on police reports and other documents as part of a scheme to enrich themselves.

[…]

Besides the new charges Goines and Bryant face, Ogg announced charges against former HPD Lt. Robert Gonzales, Sgts. Clemente Reyna and Thomas Wood and Goines’ old partner.

It appears several officers and supervisors in the Houston Police Department feel this isn’t going to end well for them. They’re getting out before the department gets to them.

In the months after the raid, Goines retired from HPD. Bryant also retired, along with Goines’ other former partner, Hodgie Armstrong. Three supervisors — Sgt. Clemente Reyna, Sgt. Tommy Woods and Lt. Robert Gonzales also retired. Former Narcotics Commander Paul Follis was transferred to a different post, the Hobby Airport Division.

There’s some good news at the end of all of this. Some reforms are now in place to reduce the likelihood of this sort of tragedy repeating itself. A supervisor is now required to be on the scene during warrant deployment. No-knock warrants have to be approved by the chief himself (or his “designee”). Officers can no longer use municipal court judges for warrant approval. And, finally, body cameras are mandatory for all drug warrant service. They must be activated before officers leave their vehicles and cannot be shut off until the scene and all suspects are secured. All evidence collected must be logged and photographed. All interactions with informants must be documented and, more importantly, all informants will be subject to periodic background checks and random face-to-face interviews with PD supervisors.

This may fix some things going forward. But a more permanent solution would be to dismantle the current unit and reform it using other officers — officers who’ve proven worthy of trust. Officers who’ve been in a system this devoid of oversight and accountability are pretty much ruined. They need to be given the shortest leash and the least amount of responsibility until they’ve proven they can handle more. Without a major overhaul, the next horrendous abuse of power is still an inevitability.

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Comments on “Internal Investigation Shows The Houston PD's Narcotics Units Was An Unsupervised Mess”

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24 Comments
Dr evil says:

Botched drug raid

Please, everyone, stop letting the Houston PD set the narrative and vocabulary! Botched means everything except the execution was done perfectly, legally, and to a correct and risk analyzed process/procedure/plan.. This was INTENTIONALLY flawed, criminal premeditation with nefarious motivations (like job security, thrills, psychopathic and sociopathic leanings, etc). This was more murder than normal, not a raid that was botched. The actors will never get closer to emulating TV and movies than this.

Dr evil says:

Botched drug raid

Please, everyone, stop letting the Houston PD set the narrative and vocabulary! Botched means everything except the execution was done perfectly, legally, and to a correct and risk analyzed process/procedure/plan.. This was INTENTIONALLY flawed, criminal premeditation with nefarious motivations (like job security, thrills, psychopathic and sociopathic leanings, skimming a little ‘informant cash’ etc). This was more murder than normal, not a raid that was botched. The actors will never get closer to emulating TV and movies than this.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: The worst?

"Or it could be there are plenty worse, he just fucked up the worst."

That’s my worry here.

I’ll expound on a tangent – here in Sweden a number of years ago a chief of police got convicted – of numerous counts of trafficking, rape, extortion, the works – targeting abused and/or vulnerable women and girls he found through police registers. Up until then he was "known" for his pro-feminist stance to the point where his nickname was "Kapten Klänning" (Captain Dress). He’d been at it for several years until he became first a suspect, then three years later, got caught at a gas station meeting up with a 14 year old girl with a suitcase full of sex toys including leashes, leather strings, a ball gag, a whip, and a solid supply of viagra.

Bear in mind that this was in sweden where police supervision usually works. And he still had to set records in fucking up before getting caught. How many more in the same position are smarter and more low-key in their abuse of power?

Now look at Goines. His record is about as subtle as a mardi gras carnival. He – and his entire squad – would need most of the department he was working for actively covering him up for half of that shit to fly under the radar for as long as it did.

Greta Dildoberg says:

Re: Re: The worst?

re: “ this was in sweden where police supervision usually works.”

Thats hilarious. The Zio -Nazis own Sweden, pal. The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo, and all of that.

Exactly what is your definition of “works ”? ROGS Analysis predicts that you are totally full of shit.

Cops in your countries (as in communist countries ) totally control sexual access.

And, last I checked, more people die from bullets, depleted uranium, and Lutheran /Catholic /Jewish /Islamic theology, than any who succumbed to “having their vaginas or penises nibbled while wearing a dog collar ” ….

Unless, of course we count Abu Ghraib, where these things, ACTUALLY HAPPENED, courtesy of your government and others.

Upstream (profile) says:

Art Acevedo

And the problems go all the way to the top.

Recently (7-15-20) I was listening to the local public radio station and I heard a story on The Takeaway (wnycstudios.org). The story was called ‘The Future of Policing in America‘. One of the people involved in the discussion was Art Acevedo. When I heard Art Acevedo make noise about having had to fire some bad cops, painting himself as some sort of paragon of accountability, I began to get physically ill.

It is a short listen at the link above, but keep the barf-bag handy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Corruption means every interaction with that cop is invalid

Since that cop and many other others in the unit have been shown to have flouted the law in their persuit of arrests, every sworn statement needs to be invalidated. They are proven liars and their word should be removed from any criminal cases since it has been proven to be unreliable. Literally everyone ever arrested by these cops needs to be released and their records expunged due to the incompetence of the PD involved.

Upstream (profile) says:

Re: Re: Corruption means every interaction with that cop is inva

Unfortunately, the courts are very slow to accept what is painfully clear to anyone else willing to look: that the "pattern and practice" of corruption in law enforcement is rampant, and has been for a very long time. Anyone who trusts anyone in law enforcement about anything is making a very grave error. Yet the courts still largely treat a cop’s word as unassailable gospel truth. There have been a few exceptions, with a few State / District Attorney’s offices reviewing some old cases that had hinged largely on a newly discredited cop’s testimony, but they are the rare exception. And most of them have been largely for PR purposes, with instances of large-scale dismissal of charges being even more rare.

We can hope this becomes one of those rarest of rare instances, but don’t hold your breath.

Annonymouse says:

Re: Re: Re: Corruption means every interaction with that cop is

It is much deeper than that.
Judges will accept a cops testimony over that of science logic or other physical evidence to the contrary. Why because judges are beyond reproach outside of failing to be reelected in some jurisdictions.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Corruption means every interaction with that cop

"Why because judges are beyond reproach outside of failing to be reelected in some jurisdictions."

And from a political standpoint being portrayed as being "soft on crime" as opposed to simply lynching every person hauled into their courtroom by the police, is political suicide.

It all boils down to the US voters persistently rewarding bad behavior with high political office.

ECA (profile) says:

Game design.

Long ago at a table near you,
We learned the best thing about games.
If there is a way to Finagle the rules or just to Slip a card, to read the people around you..
You can Cheat in the game.

At a cash register, it will NOT be long until the Total reading of Cost, will have the person at the register, customer or Employee, Inserting the cash and change or CARD, and Change sorted by the computer.. NOT THE CASHIER.

Anonymous Coward says:

Hang 'Em All

"…officers operated with indifference, carelessness, and negligence."
Evil, self-aggrandizing, premediated murder, i.e., Goines’ action plan, goes WAY beyond indifference (he wanted to kill and be rewarded for it), carelessness (he was careful in his plotting, incompetent but careful), and negligence (okay – I’ll sort of buy that one…his idiocy led him to be negligent in covering his tracks).

This class of murderousness does not bloom in a healthy environment. All 175 officers should be investigated.

BurningWoodchipper (profile) says:

No wonder George floyd hated cops

An earlier story on Gritsforbreakfast also mentioned that Gerald Goines was the arresting officer for one of George Floyd’s busts. Floyd even said during his final arrest, "I’m nervous around cops, because bad things happen."

I’d suggest that Floyd’s death is at least partly due to his experience at the hands of Corrupt Cop Gerald Goines.

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