DISTRICT J

Candidates responding: Andrew Patterson & Sandra Rodriguez

Municipal Court Fines & Fees, Community Service

The Houston City Council and Mayor sets policy for the municipal courts in Houston. These courts hear only Class C Misdemeanors - including such common offenses as minor traffic offenses, public intoxication, and violating other municipal ordinances.


As a City Councilmember, would you eliminate the practice of jailing people just for failure to pay fines and fees to the municipal court, if they are indigent?

Andrew Patterson: If indigent is a danger then no.

Sandra Rodríguez: Yes

Would you make one of the performance review issues for municipal judges their treatment of citizens who lack the ability to pay fines? For instance, the decision on whether to rehire municipal judges could include a review of whether they are jailing people for fines and fees related to Class C Misdemeanors or whether they are appropriately waiving fines or converting them into community service when people cannot afford to pay them.


Andrew Patterson: Yes

Sandra Rodríguez: Yes


Would you end or reform the Omnibase program, which is a city contract that allows the municipal court to put a hold on people renewing their drivers’ licenses if they have not paid City of Houston Municipal Court fines or fees?


Andrew Patterson: Yes

Sandra Rodríguez: Yes


More than 68,000 warrants for failure to appear and 23,000 warrants for failure to pay were issued by the Houston Municipal Court last year. Would you support reducing warrants for the arrest of people charged with Class C Misdemeanors who fail to appear in court or fail to pay a fine?


Andrew Patterson: I would offer community service or something similar.

Sandra Rodríguez: Yes


Decriminalizing Homelessness

Most Texas cities currently criminalize people for activities they cannot control when they are homeless. For instance, the City of Houston has a "No Camping" ordinance, but no provision of what people can do if they are homeless. Other such offenses include No Sitting or No Lying in a public walkway.


Would you vote to decriminalize the daily activities of people experiencing homelessness?


Andrew Patterson: Yes

Sandra Rodríguez: Yes


Cite and Release Policies

Texas state law allows local police departments to develop policies under which police may issue a citation instead of arresting someone for certain Class B and Class A Misdemeanors. Such "cite and release" eligible offenses include Driving with an Invalid License, Possession of Marijuana, and Theft (between $100 and $750). However, most city police departments lack policies that empower officers to use cite and release on a regular basis, and therefore, jails are filled with people who were booked in on these low-level, nonviolent offenses.


Will you ask the Houston Police Department to implement a broad cite and release policy?


Andrew Patterson: Yes

Sandra Rodríguez: Yes, I will work with organizations such as Right2Justice Coalition to ensure we develop a comprehensive plan to propose to the Houston Police Department


De-Escalation and Use of Force by the Police Department

Other government agencies control many aspects of criminal justice, but the Houston City Council has the most direct control over policing by the Houston Police Department.


Will you demand that the Houston Police Department make their “Use of Force” policies public?


Andrew Patterson: Yes

Sandra Rodríguez: Yes


Will you demand that the Houston Police Department revise its use of force policies to limit the use of choke holds and strangleholds to situations where deadly force is authorized?


Andrew Patterson: Yes

Sandra Rodríguez: Yes


Will you demand that the Houston Police Department revise its use of force policies to require officers to give a verbal warning, when possible, before using force, especially deadly force?


Andrew Patterson: Yes

Sandra Rodríguez: Yes


Will you advocate that HPD revise its use of force policies to restrict shooting at moving vehicles unless the occupants of the vehicle are using deadly force?


Andrew Patterson: Yes

Sandra Rodríguez: Yes, I will review material from other cities who have made such changes and the impacts it's had


Will you demand that the Houston Police Department revise its use of force policies to require that officers exhaust all other means before shooting?


Andrew Patterson: under normal circumstance yes.

Sandra Rodríguez: Yes, I will review material from other cities who have made such changes and the impacts it's had


Will you demand that the Houston Police Department revise its use of force policies to require officers to intervene and stop another officer from using excessive force?


Andrew Patterson: Yes

Sandra Rodríguez: Yes, Officers should hold each other accountable


Will you demand that the Houston Police Department revise its use of force policies to require officers to report all uses of force including threatening a civilian with a firearm?


Andrew Patterson: Yes

Sandra Rodríguez: Yes

Will you demand that the Houston Police Department revise its use of force policies to require de-escalation of potentially fraught situations?

Andrew Patterson: Yes

Sandra Rodríguez: Yes

Will you demand that the Houston Police Department revise its use of force policies to provide specific guidelines for when certain levels of force are authorized?


Andrew Patterson: Yes

Sandra Rodríguez: Yes


Will you work with the Houston Police Department to implement training in de-escalation techniques for all officers?


Andrew Patterson: Yes

Sandra Rodríguez: Yes


Will you commit to asking the Houston Police Department to develop a policy to release body worn camera video of critical incidents?


Andrew Patterson: yes unless to gruesome to release to public.

Sandra Rodríguez: Yes


Informing people of their rights post-SB 4

SB 4 makes it illegal to instruct law enforcement not to cooperate with ICE.


Will you implement a policy so that before police ask about the immigration status of anyone they have lawfully detained, they inform such persons of their right to remain silent?


Andrew Patterson: No

Sandra Rodríguez: Yes


Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD)

Several cities across the country have begun using LEAD programs to avoid arresting people for offenses including prostitution, drug possession, and mental health issues. LEAD programs allow law enforcement officers to connect people directly to the services they need instead of arresting them.


Will you work with the Houston Police Department to implement a LEAD program?


Andrew Patterson: Yes

Sandra Rodríguez: Yes, As a public servant for the past 20 years I truly believe in rehabilitation and by implementing an LEAD program, we can begin eliminating/changing communities directly impacted by these offenses.


Police Accountability

The Houston Police union contract will be renegotiated in 2020.


Will you negotiate a new police union contract in 2020 that will end the mandatory waiting period before an interview begins in the instances of potential police misconduct?


Andrew Patterson: Yes

Sandra Rodríguez: Yes


Will you negotiate a new police union contract that will eliminate technical reasons for dismissing complaints, such as limited timeframes to report complaints and other issues like this?


Andrew Patterson: No

Sandra Rodríguez: Yes


Will you negotiate a new police union contract that will eliminate the practice of giving officers unfair access to information about complaints? For instance, in Houston, the current police union contract entitles officers to see witness statements *before interrogation*, a benefit that no ordinary defendant gets.


Andrew Patterson: No

Sandra Rodríguez: Yes


Will you negotiate a new police union contract in 2020 that will ensure that there is full civilian oversight over the police department and disciplinary procedures?


Andrew Patterson: Yes

Sandra Rodríguez: Yes


Will you negotiate a new police union contract that will ensure that misconduct is not erased from police records?


Andrew Patterson: Yes

Sandra Rodríguez: Yes


Tell us about your law enforcement and criminal justice priorities.


Of the issues listed above, what would be your top priority to work on? Why?


Andrew Patterson: To direct (LEAD) individuals to be able to access care.

Sandra Rodríguez: I have been a public servant for the past 20 years working in social service and I strongly believe that we can affect change in our communities by addressing many of the issues at the root of the problem. The LEAD program is something I am very interested in learning more and working towards implementing it in our city. We cannot wait expect results by always criminilizing individuals when most times this is all they know. We need to break the cycle and not wait generations to work on it. It starts now!


Are there any additional important issues of law enforcement and criminal justice that you want to push? Why? Please talk about specific policy changes you would seek.


Andrew Patterson: Use of ROR by Courts.

Sandra Rodríguez: As a diverse city I believe we need to work on improving law enforcement relationships in our communities through relational policing. Many of our immigrant communities have had bad experiences with law enforcement. Many have become victims of crime and do not want to have anything to do with police which causing unreporting of crimes. I will work with groups like Right2Justice Coalition to develop just policies for the city where we can feel safe.

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