I’d like to welcome the members of the newly created Galveston Police Civilian Review Board. Much has been said and written about the creation of this board and I want to make it known that its members are welcome we’re glad they’re here we look forward to their work we’ll accommodate what they do and cooperate completely.
There have been those among us who have not looked forward to the creation of this board and let me try to explain why I think that’s so. Police officers have historically been manipulated by politics and the powerful with threats to “get you fired” or “have your job” or other such comments that have dominated law-enforcement history for generations throughout our country.
There have been places in this country where the position of a police officer was a political appointment. Officers thereafter were obliged to accommodate those in power who made that appointment possible.
Officers were subservient and subordinate to the political whims of others and justice and fairness were compromised as a result. That system previously existed throughout the country and in Galveston as well. It was a way of life and it bred corruption and a whole host of illegal activities.
Chapter 143 of the Texas Local Government Code Civil Service Law was created in 1947 to offset that undue influence and provide for the independence so necessary for efficient and effective law enforcement.
Chapter 143 or Civil Service law has worked well for the most part but fallen short in many areas of concern to peace officers across the country. Texas is no exception. Extra protections have been sought by police officers as well as firefighters and although there is a law against strikes by the police contracts through collective bargaining and meet-and-confer agreements have supplemented that which is provided by the Texas Local Government Code Civil Service Law.
Many cities have opted for collective bargaining or meet-and-confer legislation approved by voters or elected local officials. These agreements most often outline additional working conditions and benefits not afforded under state civil-service laws.
Some rank-and-file police officers in Galveston believe the creation of a civilian review board is a threat to the protections afforded by contract and civil service and that discipline perceived to be administered by a board of political appointees is a throwback to the days of political patronage.
That’s at the root of the concern about a civilian review board. Ironically that’s just not the case and I believe our officers are coming to understand that the board will not administer discipline.
The board serves in an advisory capacity to the chief of police. By law the chief of police must decide about discipline in the police department. We hope and expect that the members of Galveston Civilian Review Board will come to understand the complexity of our work as we understand their role and relationship to our department and that collectively we can move to that next level of ensuring the public trust and regaining the confidence of those who claim it’s been lost.
I’ve made it clear from the beginning that I’m not at all afraid of a civilian review board. I don’t think our officers should be either. If that’s what required for us as a police organization to regain the public trust ensure fundamental fairness go about the business of effectively and efficiently policing the island and moving toward a more professional organization then I’m for that.
There is simply no reason to concern ourselves about political patronage. Our officers and our residents need to be assured of that fact. I hope all understand it at this point.
The newly created police civilian review board will soon begin work and through its work and with our support our organization will be stronger and there will be a greater understanding of what we do for our community.
Transparency in government is never a bad thing and so it is in policing as well. So to the members of Galveston Police Civilian Review Board welcome Come look at us
Charles Wiley is chief of police in Galveston.