Written by Mark Nichols
There is a wide array of schools of thought regarding the best way to run a law enforcement agency particularly when it comes to the issue of discipline. Some bosses are heavier on the stick than the carrot and vice-versa. But at the end of the day it’s up to the top-cop in terms of the best way to manage his or her agency.
According to a recent article in The Houston Chronicle, one thing that can not be said about Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland is that he’s a pushover when it comes to policing his police officers.
With three years in command on the job in Houston, McClelland has fired 63 officers and disciplined almost 1,300 for less serious infractions.
The numbers are from internal affairs records obtained by the Houston Chronicle.
The records indicate that McClelland's pledge to maintain the public's confidence and trust by punishing officers in the 5,200-member department who break rules and laws wasn’t just tough talk.
Of the officers who were disciplined, McClelland suspended 464 without pay and reprimanded more than 820, according to the numbers.
Another 983 officers were ordered by the chief to receive counseling from their supervisors.
For cops working in smaller agencies those numbers might seem high but they’re similar to the numbers of cops fired and disciplined by previous leaders.
McClelland’s predecessor Harold Hurtt terminated 58 in his last three years on the job while suspending and reprimanding roughly the same number as the current chief.
The amazing part is that McClelland has been able to maintain union support despite the aggressive discipline. But that is not to say that union leaders are critical of some of the chief's actions; most notably those would include two highly publicized cases in which they believe the chief's punishment of some officers involved was unwarranted.
"Overall, we believe that he has been fair when it comes to discipline," said Ray Hunt, president of the Houston Police Officers' Union. "However, we have disagreed with him on some disciplines and have taken it to an arbitrator when we disagree."