HITCHCOCK

Sgt. Michael Allen will serve as interim police chief after commissioners in a tight vote Thursday fired Chief John Hamm, according to one official and law enforcement sources.

Allen takes over a department at the center of a long-running conflict about police staffing, public safety and fiscal responsibility that shows no signs of abating and might be getting hotter with one commissioner vowing to call in the Texas Rangers to investigate official misconduct.

Hamm packed his belongings at the police station and said his goodbyes Friday, he said. The position was the best job he’d ever had, and he’d been flooded with texts and calls from friends offering support, he said.

“I’ve closed out the office this afternoon and turned the keys over,” Hamm said. “Certainly, it was a very tear-filled day.”

Hamm had recommended his second-in-command, Capt. John Jenkins, to lead the department, he said. City officials, however, picked Allen, City Commissioner Monica Cantrell said.

Hamm’s termination this week came after months of tension between the police department and city officials, particularly Mayor Dorothy Childress.

Facing a $900,000 budget deficit going into the new year, city officials have been searching for savings.

Earlier this year, the city commission voted to eliminate four police positions. The layoffs left the police department with 19 staff members, including 13 police officers and six support staff members.

The ongoing financial struggles have created unfortunate divides in the community, Hitchcock resident Sam Collins III said. Some residents had mounted opposition against the mayor over the budget cuts and had unfairly painted her as anti-police, he said.

“This idea that you don’t back the blue if you have to cut budgets is ridiculous,” Collins said.

The police department endured the brunt of the budget cuts because the department makes up the biggest part of the budget, but all departments have had their budgets reduced, Collins said.

“No matter where you cut, somebody was going to be unhappy,” Collins said. “If you cut someone at city hall, their family is not going to be happy, this is very painful.”

The city needed to right its ship financially, which meant making hard, and sometimes unpopular, decisions, Collins said. Collins considered Hamm a friend, but said it appeared Hamm had been fighting city leadership about the cuts, Collins said.

The commission has to make tough decisions for the overall well-being of Hitchcock and the city needs department heads who are willing to acknowledge that and work toward it, Collins said.

“He’s frustrated with losing officers and it has brought on a lot of pressure to do the same job with less people,” Collins said. “We’re all human beings, I get it. I don’t want to see anyone lose their benefits.”

Those frustrations came to a head Thursday night. Hamm’s supporters packed city hall to voice opposition to the police chief’s termination.

“Get her out,” the crowd chanted at Childress before the vote.

Commissioners Fard Abdullah and Randy Stricklind joined Childress in voting for Hamm’s ouster.

“I do not discuss personnel matters,” Childress said as the audience shouted for her to provide a reason for the decision.

Commissioners Cantrell and Mark Cook voted against Hamm’s termination. After storming out of an executive session held before the vote, Cantrell called for residents to mount a recall campaign against the mayor.

Cantrell said Friday she thought elected city officials had not been conducting business correctly. She had contacted county and state officials with concerns about how public meetings were being posted, and planned to contact the Texas Rangers, she said.

She didn’t have any knowledge that the police chief was going to be discussed, and that was not included on the agenda, which is required, she said.

“There are a lot of things that in my opinion need to be looked into and all kinds of procedures and policies that need to be in place that aren’t being practiced,” Cantrell said.

Previous city commissions had overspent, and the budget needed to be balanced, Cantrell said. But firing a popular, homegrown police chief was not the answer, she said.

Hamm had never been written up or disciplined, Cantrell said. The only apparent reason for the firing was that Childress had said she “could not work with him,” Cantrell said.

Other city officials had complained in the past that Hamm had not managed the overtime budget well, but Cantrell disagreed with that assessment, she said. Much of the overtime budget had been spent during Hurricane Harvey, she said.

“It’s not easy to maintain any 24-7 shift,” Cantrell said.

Childress did not respond to a request for comment at her home phone number Friday afternoon.

Marissa Barnett: 409-683-5257; marissa.barnett@galvnews.com

Senior Reporter

(15) comments

Carlos Ponce

"Other city officials had complained in the past that Hamm had not managed the overtime budget well, but Cantrell disagreed with that assessment, she said. Much of the overtime budget had been spent during Hurricane Harvey, she said."
Overtime - Hitchcock police officers came to work on their day off, May 18, 2018 so HPD officers could help in the Santa Fe High School Shooting Crisis. Chief John Hamm and others aided the SFISD Police, SFPD and GCSO in the shooting aftermath at the police station, at SFHS and in Alvin investigating the shooter's home. This could not have been done unless the off duty officers came on duty on what supposed to be their day off. The city of Hitchcock was not left without police protection while aiding their neighboring community.

PD Hyatt

There is so much more to this story then people know. childress has tried to destroy the PD before and now it looks like she has done a good job in gutting it this time. We have 1 officer per shift and we have not seen a police car in our neighborhood for weeks which means we are on our own for protection, but the 3 who voted to fire Hmm could care less about our safety as long as they are protected!!!!

Ron Shelby

So many problems with this logic. A quick new hire that probably works with her or his new supervisors would restore the status quo. There must be more going on here such as supporters who wanted someone else as mayor. The Texas Rangers will probably step back given a clean election of a new mayor.

Ray Taft

The reason for firing Chief John Hamm could be apparent in the article.

“The commission has to make tough decisions for the overall well-being of Hitchcock and the city needs department heads who are willing to acknowledge that and work toward it, Collins said.”

“The city needed to right its ship financially, which meant making hard, and sometimes unpopular, decisions, Collins said. Collins considered Hamm a friend, but said it appeared Hamm had been fighting city leadership about the cuts, Collins said.”

“Hamm had never been written up or disciplined, Cantrell said. The only apparent reason for the firing was that Childress had said she “could not work with him,” Cantrell said.”

Maybe Hamm was fired because he preferred to do his job and not just keep his job. City Commission wants to make cuts wherever they want to make cuts, and they want everyone in the city to shut up and do what they are told. Hamm was not going along to get along, so he got fired? That certainly sends a message to everyone else in city government.

I wonder if the City Commission is going to start punishing citizens by cutting off city services to citizens who complain about spending cuts? Maybe it is time to have an outside accounting over what is going on inside City Commission? Maybe some people in leadership need to be replaced in Hitchcock to remove the source of all the woes?

Rusty Schroeder

I find it funny that the Mayor 3 weeks ago wrote this long post in the comments defending herself, and now again is unavailable for comment for the last 10 days. It seems everything she defended herself against she is blatantly repeating. To the naked eye it looks like she is a liar, then when confronted with her actions and the facts she hides and is unavailable. I have friends that live in Hitchcock and have heard and seen videos that are undeniable of the fact her intentions were other than what she said. There are definitely players in this game behind the scenes that are supporting her actions and probably have a hand in directing them. If things are true from what I have heard, the Texas Rangers, the Attorney General, and probably the Comptroller will have a field day. Records opened, past and present, as well as real estate holdings and sales will be among other things delved into. I know Hitchcock won't recover with this leadership, the town is more divided than it ever has been. And that's saying a lot when we are talking about Hitchcock. They have taken La Marque's title away as the most dysfunctional city in the county and look to keep the award for a while. I would like to see the 7 colleges and universities listed that are coming for this so called think take. They each need to bring a suitcase full of cash with them to start discussion. Bye Hitchcock.

Lisa Gray

This "mayor" needs to go. She has put the safety of the people of Hitchcock at risk with her actions. I sincerely hope that the Texas Rangers are called to investigate her actions and this little fiefdom she thinks she rules. Recall her.

Ron Shelby

I suspect that the Texas Rangers will defer and stay out of it.

Ron Shelby

Unfortunately, city and county government elected officials have a right to work with and direct employees under them. That’s why the new County Commissioners court, in 2010, terminated nearly 21 directors and department heads. Any newly elected official has the right to do the same, especially with deputies who speak on their behalf when they are not present. If those employees are combative and will not follow the direction of their boss...they get terminated. This police position is not elected. From the statements here, it’s a shame, but it’s clear that he could not work with his new bosses. The police Chief is not independent in actions or reporting and knows better. I’m sure that he will find a good spot elsewhere.

Randy Chapman

I suggest everyone pay attention to the speed limits on highway 6, FM519, and FM2004. The City has to support itself somehow, and I'm sure no minor speed infraction will be overlooked in the future. Hitchcock was known for years as a speed trap, and I'm sure that will return soon,

Rusty Schroeder

Yes sir, the funny thing though is they don't have the staff to patrol the highway. And I can definitely bypass Hitchcock, it's not like they have a supermarket to shop at. I used to actually shop at Bayway if I was in the area and get a sandwich at Subway.

Michelle Aycoth

True, well know fact in Alvin.

David Doe

There are many people one can contact. One could start with the state AG.

Ron Shelby

Too many decisions in place on this. The AG will likely reassert the right of the supervisor/elected official.

Carol Dean

Ron, why don't you stick to facts rather then posting your opinions?

Terry Lane

His dismissal could also mean that he would not be lead to do things detrimental to the city which seems to be this mayors pattern in the past. Why in the world would this person be inserted back in as mayor unless it was to continue the agenda of a few? She should have been thrilled to have a Chief who had the communities ear. In her past failed position there she had a woman illegally arrested and the city had to settle that lawsuit from what I’ve read. Maybe she wants continue her retaliation and playing police and the Chief would not go along. I hope the citizens can unite soon and clean out city hall completely.

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