Houston’s past has had troubling consequences for police, but trust gap appears huge

“I don’t have a lot of faith in any one police department to take on the tough job of policing,” Mireille Bellamy, the star of the CBS documentary “60 Minutes” tonight, says in the preview.

A disconcerting portrait emerges of the 130 city cops reassigned after an international scandal broke out over reports of a cover-up by one of their colleagues, who was charged with running a meth lab from inside the police department. What Bellamy’s film suggests is that for the Houston police department, part of its job is to watch over the very members of its own family members.

Bellamy paints a dark portrait of police officers and their families in the Houston suburb of Edinburg, Texas. It’s a community shaken by scandal after officers allegedly falsified police reports as part of a cover-up of a meth lab. Since, a slew of police officers have decided to leave, leaving less-experienced, ill-equipped police in charge of a community that’s seen 48 homicides so far this year.

What city is this?

No clue, unless you’re familiar with Texas. Edinburg (or, more correctly, Edinburg, TX) is the smallest city in the Lone Star State, with a population of about 7,400. A Spanish-American state capital, it’s an agricultural town founded by Germans. Although formed a little more than 100 years ago, it’s still called Edinburg and is home to more than 30% Hispanic residents.

“60 Minutes” previews came out a few days after the turn of the year, and how Houston’s police department has responded to the furor over police graft in Texas is expected to be featured on the CBS program.

Filling the trust gap

Despite strong pre-revision polling evidence on the extent of the scandal, the officers’ exodus seemed to reflect a troubling lack of community trust and the lack of a unified message. Edinburg Police Department officials had admitted the department was in a “mess,” but then also found a way to spin the situation as a crisis.

Cases of tainting investigations, court appearances for public intoxication and even sexual harassment charges have been exposed. In every case, the police essentially explain to their families and the community that their actions were solely a minor mistake. But on the verge of bankruptcy, one of the few remaining questions here is: “If you can’t trust the officers on the street, how can you trust the ones in the office?”

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