LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Last week, the KCBD Investigates team took a look at the process of identifying and terminating “bad officers” in two area police departments.
The team learned that while everyone wants accountability, it is not always that easy to achieve.
After researching the challenges of balancing accountability and due process, we had more questions. This time, we took them to someone who spent the majority of his career in a civil service agency and is now leading a department that is not governed by Civil Service rules.
We asked to sit down with former Lubbock Police Chief Greg Stevens, who offered pragmatic solutions for improving the system.
“One of the biggest challenges we face and what makes law enforcement a tough business right now, that’s what people keep saying, the public really doesn’t understand how this business works, ” said Stevens.
So, we asked, how does it work?
“The civil service laws as they were originally written are very good, we need those, especially in the bigger cities. But, there’s innate problems with how they are today. They take too much control away from police chiefs and the public doesn’t understand that,” Stevens said.
Last week, the KCBD Investigates team looked at the challenges of the Lubbock system and found civilian review and arbitration often results in the reinstatement of officers the chief has fired.
“If you’ll stop for a minute and look into that, in cities that have civilian review boards, in almost all cases, what research has shown us is that those civilian review boards are far more lenient on police officers than police chiefs are,” Stevens said.
Citizens, going soft on police officers?
“And when civilian review boards come into play, they don’t understand police work like we do and so they look at this officer that comes in in their dress uniform and they’ve done a bunch of good stuff and they may look at it and say ‘well, they deserve a second chance.’ Sometimes that’s appropriate, sometimes that’s good. But, too often they second guess the police chief and they put the bad officer back to work.”
Last month, the Austin City Council cut the city’s police budget by 30%. We asked Stevens about calls to de-fund the police.
“The police are stretched too thin,” Stevens said. “I don’t know, when you say defund the police, we’re not funding the police at the levels that we need to and quite frankly, I’m just going to call it like it is, a lot of the people that are yammering about defunding the police, they’re not funding the police, so, I don’t know that they have the credibility to talk about defunding the police.”
Stevens says too often police are going to calls where the person who ends up being arrested needs a doctor, not a law enforcement officer.
He says while the solution to fixing the system many see as broken may not be popular, it is fairly simple: “We need to empower the police to police themselves. It will work, if you’ll make accountability equal with authority. Stop second-guessing the police chiefs when they’re trying to get rid of a bad cop and it will work.”
But, Stevens also had something to say to his fellow law enforcement officers about holding themselves to the standard they were hired to.
“I would challenge every police officer, right now. Ask yourself right now. Could I get hired by my department, right now, today? And then, whatever that answer is, you know what you need to do. That’s how we fix law enforcement in America.”