Joe Danna was kind enough to agree to be interviewed regarding his race for Sherriff. Running against an incumbent Democrat in this election cycle is a difficult proposition, and he is to be commended for taking the time, effort, and expense of this uphill battle. This interview focused on what his vision for the Sherriff’s office looks like, and how will he differ from the current incumbent.
He indicated that his priorities are taking politics out of the office, filling budgeted but unfilled positions within the office, and making sure the bad officers are identified and removed from the office. He believes these steps will lead to better community relations and better service to the public. To understand how all of this impacts law enforcement and the Sherriff’s office it’s best to start with an overview of the overall political climate.
It’s been discussed ad nauseam, but we live in a time where we have a soft on crime District Attorney, and criminal court judges are criminal friendly. Criminals don’t fear committing crime, and he pointed out how this has the effect of having criminals from outside the county coming into Harris County to commit crime since the criminal justice system has become so criminal friendly. It’s a deliberate calculation – crime is a safer proposition in Harris County than in the surrounding counties so they come here to commit crime. Not only does this create a greater danger to the citizens of the county, but it also demoralizes law enforcement especially in the overall context of the Democratic party’s hostility towards law enforcement in general. This, in turn, has lead to negative public safety and public service impacts. He noted that the average response time for a hit and run, which if injuries are involved is at least a state jail felony, is four hours.
To address these concerns he has a plan to take politics out of the office and to fundamentally change the organizational structure to improve functioning of the office. The organizational structure would change to where five individuals in the office would answer to him directly; they would have five individuals answer to them, and so on. This decentralizes the power at the top of the organizational chart, and improves communication by eliminating bottlenecks with communication. This also leaves a clearer picture of where responsibilities lie and how to address issues that arise. From a decision making standpoint he wants to make decisions from a good of the Sherriff’s office prism with the belief that a happy functioning department will be better able to serve the public.
He was concerned about the various efforts to centralize power and staffing of the Sherriff’s office. Adrian Garcia has proposed a plan that would have eliminated the Constable contract program and assumed it under the Sherriff’s office. He believes this is a bad idea. Although the idea was withdrawn by Commissioner Garcia the intent was clear – centralize the program under the Sherriff’s office. This plan is especially concerning since the office is understaffed. He noted that right now 101 budgeted and approved positions are vacant. The failure to fill these positions seems like an under the table way to defund the office, and with Commissioner Garcia’s attempt to divert the Constable contract program to the Sherriff’s office this seems like a coordinated effort to decrease law enforcement effectiveness and weaken law enforcement’s capabilities to address crime.
The last area we covered is how his office could better enhance public safety if he is elected. In addition to filling the 101 positions noted above, he felt it was important to build better to build community relationships. He said this starts by making sure HCSO treats everyone equally regardless of race, gender, ideology, or the number of contacts they have had with law enforcement. Each contact is a new contact and everyone in the county is on equal footing when they reach out to the Sherriff’s office for assistance. Building community relationships is important because he noted that people tend to not get involved unless they are a victim, and cited Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Texas Equasearch as examples. Building community relationships takes time, especially in this current political climate, and in the meantime he felt that immediate actions he could take are reallocating resources to areas of need – human trafficking only has three people assigned to the division – and to accept calls and investigate crimes that Houston Police Department is unable to investigate since the Sherriff’s office has jurisdiction county wide. He also noted a willingness to actively identify and remove bad officers whether it’s 0.001% or 10% of the force.
The overall impression he left was that he would change the focus of the office. Rather than politically oriented he would be office and public safety oriented. Reallocation of resources to meet the current needs of public safety and filling the 101 available and funded positions alone would help to increase public safety. The willingness to remove bad officers, and desire to treat each call and every individual on a clean slate every call should give comfort to the entire community. The willingness to investigate crimes the Houston Police Department is unable to allocate resources to investigate will help to make sure everyone can receive assistance if they reach out for help. All of this is especially important in our current political climate where criminals feel that it is safer to come to Harris County to engage in criminal behavior than to conduct crime in their own areas.
He is endorsed by: Mike Knox, The “C” Club of Houston, Texas Homeschool Coalition, J.L. Trahan (BIZPAC.US Executive Chariman), Representative Briscoe Cain, Michael Berry