HCSO Announces Employees' Bill of Rights

The Harris County Sheriff's Office today announced its first-ever employee "Bill of Rights." The office says the purpose is to make sure employees get fair and consistent treatment if they're ever brought up on complaint charges. But the employees' union says the measure falls short, as David Pitman reports.

The Harris County Deputies Organization says it's still reviewing the employees' bill of rights.  But the union says it has already found a number of differences between what it wanted, and what the sheriff's office delivered.  Union President Bob Goerlitz says some of the differences involve the definition of basic terms, such as "good cause" and "punitive action."  Goerlitz also says bill also makes no provisions to punish investigators who violate it.

"We basically appeal right back to the same people that are doing the investigation.  So it's kinda like the fox guarding the hen house."

Sheriff Adrian Garcia says if employees believe their rights are violated, then they take their case to the Civil Service Commission.    If the commission rules in the their favor, and awards damages, then he has to get approval from the commissioner's court before spending the money.

"I cannot impose certain budgetary sanctions, if you will, without the approval of independently elected officials."

Sheriff Garcia says the bill of rights is a step forward in what he sees an an ongoing self-improvement process for the department.   He promises that none of his employees who commit criminal acts will be able to hide behind those rights to avoid prosecution.

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David Pitman

Local Host, Morning Edition

The one question David hears most often isn't "What is it like to work for an NPR member station?" or "Have you ever met Terry Gross?" (he has)...