What would Houston Police Captain H.R. Morris Say?

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HPD, houston south central, houston police department

Recently I had the opportunity to sit down with Captain Morris from Houston’s South Central Police Department. South Central covers neighborhoods in/around Midtown, University of Houston, Riverside, Hermann Park, Southampton, Oak Lawn and Eastwood. Very nice with lots of enthusiasm, here is the interview with Captain Morris…

Eric: Which celebrity do you get mistaken for?

Captain Morris laughs…

Captain Morris: I am not sure I’ve been mistaken for a celebrity.

Eric: Have you ever stolen a pen from work?

Captain Morris: No. In fact, I bring my pens to work, the Sharpie pens; those are the ones that don’t bleed.

(I thought I would have an opportunity to perform a citizen’s arrest)

Eric: What song best describes your work ethic?

Captain Morris: Skyscraper by Demi Lovato because it talks about rising up and not letting obstacles get you down

Eric: If you could address hundreds of residents in the community using a bullhorn, what would you say?

Captain Morris: I would let the community know that we need their help. We are here to work with them and improve the quality of life here in the neighborhood, but they need to contact us and let us know where crime is occurring because we cannot be everywhere. They have to be the eyes and ears of their neighborhood. Call us, call crime stoppers anonymously or come to the station and talk to us. We are never going to see all the issues that need addressing without their assistance.

Eric: Are there forums or neighborhood meetings that residents can come to and share their concerns?

Captain Morris: Yes! We have a monthly Positive Interaction Program meeting (PIP) that occurs every 3rd Tuesday of the month at 7pm here at South Central – 2202 St Emanuel St. Visitors have a chance to ask questions or submit forms pertaining to crime or quality of life issues. I along with the other Officers process these requests and address them. We also have a Differential Response Team (DRT) that specializes in dealing with issues related to code enforcements and city regulations.

Eric: Name one thing about yourself that most people don’t know?

Captain Morris: Most people don’t know I enjoy staying up all night.

Eric: What made you decide to become a police officer?

Captain Morris: I had never thought about becoming a police officer until I took a criminal justice class while in undergrad. I found it very interesting. Prior to taking the class, I had this perception that a police officer is someone who spends most of their time chasing criminals. In that class, I learned that there are boundaries, there are rules. When I finished that class, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I’ve been an Officer for 15 years now and highly encourage people to find out more about joining the police department. Initially it was never my intent, but it has turned out to be a very rewarding career.

South Central Police Station

Eric: In the past 3 years, what is a major decision that HPD has made that has made you very proud?

Captain Morris: Scenario based training. We are not just sitting in a classroom learning techniques or discussing ‘what if’ scenarios; we are actually getting out in the field and incorporating ‘real life’ scenarios that can happen while on patrol. For example, car chases and active shooters using Simunition Ammunition.

Eric: What is one of your favorite quotes?

Captain Morris: “If you don’t do it right do it over”

Eric: If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would you meet?

Captain Morris: Ronald Reagan because he was able to accomplish a lot of things on a bi-partisan level that have benefited us today.

Eric: If you had to take a leave of absence for one year from HPD, and could say a few sentences to your Officers, what would you say?

Captain Morris: I would share with my Officers that what they do enforces what they believe the Houston Police Department should stand for. Their actions need to be in accordance with what HPD stands for and the values of the Department. If they base their actions on Integrity, Honor and Respect which are the core values of the department, then they can’t go wrong. Lastly, don’t be afraid to have fun.

[Story closed.]

Affirmative Action should no longer be based on Skin Color

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I am not a fan of Affirmative Action, but if it has to exist, it should be based off of class.

affirmative-action

Imagine this – a talented, hardworking white kid with good grades of a poor single mom loses acceptance into a University by an upper-middle-class minority student. Why should this happen? Because the grandparents of the minority student suffered discrimination decades ago?

When Affirmative Action was introduced by President Lyndon Johnson a half-century ago, minorities could expect to face humiliating economic and social discrimination. But today, affirmative action should be focused on class, not race.

Why?

Today one in six Americans now marries a person outside his or her own race which makes the job of determining racial preferences more convoluted. Does the child of a dark-skinned Bolivian with an Anglo father qualify? What about the mixed-race child of an African-American college professor and a white millionaire?

Skin color is no longer a clear indicator of privilege, but wealth certainly is. 92 percent of black students at elite colleges come from families in the top half of income distribution. Clearly, black (and white and Hispanic) at the bottom of the economic scale are being left behind.

Original talking points “Should race still matter?” featured in The Week, May 9, 2014.

The Typical Government Retiree has a Greater Income Than a Full-time Worker?

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State-pensions_breaking_the_Bank

We taxpayers are being eaten alive and we don’t even know it. Some cities have already eroded into bankruptcy because the weight of having to fund public pensions has become too much of a burden. According to a study by the American Enterprise Institute, in the average state a typical career government retiree has an income higher than 72% of all full-time workers. Excluding health benefits, the average pension pays out lifetime benefits of more than $750,000. And us taxpayers are footing the bill.

public-vs-private-pensions

So why is this important? It is important because these costs are driving up state and local taxes and forcing cities to lay off police officers, limit school funding, and stop repairing roads. I understand public employees deserve to retire with benefits, but not with lavish benefit checks that are far beyond what those in the private sector can expect. Do you agree?

Original story “Pensions that cities can’t afford” by Jeff Jacoby from the Boston Globe.

How a Rusty Monkey Wrench took down a U.S. Fleet

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Any individual, business, or government can throw money at initiatives, but when the real test comes, only smart creative thinking will make true breakthroughs.

General_PaulRiper

Remember when you played soldiers as a kid? Sometimes the kids down the street would have better toy guns than you. Maybe they had those fancy Nerf guns and all you had were simple rubber band guns. And when things weren’t going so well for one of the teams, they’d call time out and try to change the rules.

Now although I don’t play soldiers anymore because I’ve grown up, although I still eat Fruity Pebbles cereal, the military does and they call these ‘War Games’. The biggest war game was called the Millennium Challenge. It happened in 2002 and over 13,000 troops participated. These troops along with real and virtual military planes and warships were spread out across the Middle East. There were two teams – the blue team was the United States of course and the red team was the bad guys.

The blue team had new technology at their disposal. They had precision guided missiles, overhead surveillance systems, several warships including an aircraft carrier, and thousands of marines. The red team, which was led by retired marine, Lt General Paul Van Riper, appreciated that new technology, but unfortunately was not allowed to use it at his disposal. Instead, General Paul Riper was given a fleet of small and inexpensive boats and planes – most of them civilian, along with some machine guns, rockets, and small army. One could have said this was like Germany taking on the Vatican Army. Surely General Paul Riper and his army are going to get crushed. But General Riper was not frightened by the overwhelming force. He put his mind to the problem: how can I adapt and avoid this overwhelming force and yet do damage against the United States?

So after two years of planning, the Generals and Admirals who were commanding the blue team were excited to begin the Millennium Challenge. As the war game began, the U.S. fleet entered the make believe Persian Gulf determined to overwhelm General Riper’s forces. Assessing the situation, General Riper reacted and began to give orders. But he did not give orders using radio transmission – those orders might have been intercepted. Instead, he sent coded messages delivered by motorcycle messengers. He also announced these codes messages from mosques throughout the area. After the orders were received, wave after wave of those small civilian boats headed out into the Persian Gulf and began swarming the naval convoy from all directions. They fired at the U.S. fleet with rockets and machine guns. Bratatatatatat. Some boats were loaded with explosives and they crashed into the U.S. boats damaging them severely. The sheer numbers of the civilian boats and speedboats overloaded the blue team’s ability, both mentally and electronically, to handle the attack.

iranian-patrol-boats

Within 30 minutes, 16 U.S. war ships including thousands of marines were sunk. Within half an hour, General Van Riper, who did not have the latest military weapons or technology, who was only given a fleet of small and inexpensive civilian boats and airplanes, sunk 16 U.S. Navy warships and thousands of marines. If this war really had happened, it would have been the worst naval disaster since Pearl Harbor.

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Any individual, business, or government can throw money at problems, but when the real test comes, only smart creative thinking will make true breakthroughs. General Paul Riper illustrated a very cheap way to beat a very expensive fleet. The blue team considered themselves invincible and thought they were going to dominate the battlefield. Imagine the look on the blue team’s Generals and Admirals faces after they got their butt kicked. I bet it was Priceless.

General Paul Riper, despite having limited resources, put his mind to the problem – let’s think of a way we can adapt to the situation, avoid the overwhelming U.S forces, and yet still do damage against the opposition. When it comes to smart creative thinking, I think Robert Hughes said it best – “a determined soul will do more with a rusty monkey wrench than a loafer will accomplish with all the tools in a machine shop.”

Some people might think that this would never happen. For me, the story of General Van Riper and the Millennium Challenge reminds me of the American Revolutionary War. When the war began, the 13 colonies lacked a professional army or navy. Instead, each colony sponsored a local militia. Militiamen were lightly armed and had little training. In fact, most of them did not even have uniforms. Their units served for only a few weeks or months at a time, and they were reluctant to travel far from home and thus were unavailable for extended operations. They lacked the training and discipline of soldiers with more experience. However, if properly used, their numbers could overwhelm British forces. And guess who won that war.

13 colonies

I bet at the battle of Yorktown, the last major battle during the American Revolutionary war, the British General, Lord Cornwallis, who was commanding the British army, as he saw his enemy being defeated by these militiamen, probably wanted to call ‘time-out’ – you know, like what we used to do as kids when things weren’t going our way.

Why is Australia’s retirement program better than Our’s?

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An idea to fix Social Security – a look at Australia’s retirement savings system considered to be one of the best in the world

retirement in australia

Sounds like a new word right? Well it’s quite familiar to Aussie’s because that is the name of their Retirement Savings Program. The Superannuation Guarantee program is so successful, that it’s worth more than Australia’s gross domestic product – $1.52 trillion. In comparison, the US has almost twice that amount in retirement savings – $2.8 trillion, but we have 14x the population!

So why does Superannuation  work so well? To sum up:

–          More than 90 percent of Australian workers put money into the system

–          Beginning in 1992, the law required employers to divert 3 percent of most workers’ salaries into retirement accounts;  the level has risen over time as the public has gotten used to the idea

–          Withdrawals by people 60 and older are tax-free

Why else is this good for Australia?

According to Susan Thorp, a finance professor at the University of Technology Sydney – “If you have people making regular contributions from their wages, there’s always this steady stream of inflows into the capital markets. It’s money that comes into the market to purchase securities regardless of conditions. That has helped stabilize the Australian economy, which avoided a recession during the global financial crisis.”

Okay, enough about Australia, why don’t Americans have that much money saved for retirement?

–          Only 40% of Americans who worked in 2012 participated in an employer’s retirement plan

–          Americans have a bad habit of liquidating their accounts when they change jobs instead of rolling them over

social security

Instead of trying to fix our system, why not implement Superannuation? In fact, Superannuation was recently endorsed by Larry Fink, chief executive officer of BlackRock, in a lecture to business school students at New York University recently. “Superannuation has been a huge success in supplementing the government pension scheme and taking the strain off it – an attractive prospect as we think about how to relieve the burden on Social Security in this country,” he said.

Original article “Retirement Saving Done Right” by Nick Summers, June 3, 2013, Bloomberg Businessweek.

The Program that will Catapult Houston’s District C

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I visit with Houston City Council Member Ellen Cohen to discuss the Cohen Ambassador Program.

Ellen Cohen, Eric Melchor, Houston City Council, Distric C

Two years ago, officials in San Francisco implemented a new community safety program called the “Community Ambassador” program, which provided residents with safety escorts to walk them from bus stops to work, home, or other locations whenever they felt unsafe (particularly seniors). This team of multiethnic ambassadors provides a visible, non-law enforcement presence in busy transit and business corridors. In a nutshell, the program has worked out well and has gone from being tested as a pilot to now being a permanent program in San Francisco.

Flash forward to today; Houston City Council Woman Ellen Cohen has launched a District C (Southwest Houston, Museum District, Montrose, and The Heights) Comhen Ambassador program. These role models are ambassadors who are active in their own civic organizations and communicate regularly with Cohen’s staff to address pressing concerns in their communities. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Council Woman Ellen Cohen at her office.

Melchor: Is there anyone past or present that you admire?

Cohen: “Professional, Eleanor Tinsley. I had known her for years. She passed the no smoking ordinance among other ordinances. She always used to wear this broach in the shape of a turtle. Why a turtle? Because you don’t get anywhere unless you stick your head out.

Emotionally, my Mom. She turns 98 this year on Cinco de Mayo. She still plays bridge, hosts dinner parties, and is a perennial optimist.”

Melchor: What makes you laugh?

Cohen: “Brooke, my Chief of Staff. I like being surrounded by people who make me laugh and also appreciate clever repertoire.”

Melchor: What job has been more challenging, serving as the CEO of the Houston area women’s center, serving as State Representative, or serving on City Council?

Cohen: “They are all challenging. When you only have one shelter in the 4th largest city, trying to get the community to understand that it’s not just a woman’s problem that is challenging.”

Melchor: Since serving as Council Member, what is one law that City Council has passed that has made you most proud?

Cohen: “The Amendment that clears the rape kit backlog. The rape kits contain vital pieces of evidence that can be used to apprehend violent criminals, and because there was a lack of resources, 6,600 rape kits have been sitting there untested. The survivors of sexual assault crimes deserve justice, and this proposal provides a practical avenue towards accomplishing that goal.”

Melchor: What is one of the biggest challenges residents in District C are facing right now?

Cohen: “I am not sure if it’s unique to District C. Streets and sidewalks need improvement as well as other infrastructure. The good news is that our District has greater development than any other District in the city.”

Melchor: Name one thing about you that most people don’t know?

Cohen: “If I tell you, then everyone will know.”

Brooke: “She can shop with the motor running.”

: )

Melchor: The neighborhood Ambassador program was started so that ambassadors could be the ‘eyes and ears’ for civic associations throughout District C. To my knowledge, no other City Council member has created such a program. How did you think of this idea?

Cohen: “The idea just came to me. There are close to 80 civic clubs in District C. How am I going to visit all these civic clubs? And one day I was driving and the idea just came to me. What if there was a representative from each of these civic clubs who could be the ‘voice’ of their civic association. After their meetings, they could very quickly communicate to us via the internet and let us know what the pressing issues in their neighborhood are. Moreover, the CAP program could be a great way for Ambassadors to share ideas on how to improve their neighborhoods, reduce crime, raise money, and more.”

Interview Close.

I had the pleasure of representing the Avondale Community for a brief time as a Cohen Ambassador. Not only did I enjoy my time meeting with the residents of Avondale and communicating their concerns to Cohen’s office, Cohen’s office was very supportive, quick to respond, and provided me with all the necessary information needed to address a specific concern. The Cohen Ambassador Program is a great initiative and I hope other Council Members implement similar programs in their Districts as well.

Houston Constable Walker Implements great Idea to Reduce Crime

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Part of the Precinct 7 Theft Reduction Program, Constable May Walker and team hand out report cards to help deter crime. Story includes my interview with Constable Walker and Chief Goree Anderson.

with Constable Walker2

I haven’t had a report card since the 12th grade (in college we were given our grades online), so I was stunned yet excited to see a report card being handed out by Constable patrols in Houston Midtown. The report card (shown below) is a creative idea first implemented by HPD, but enhanced by Constable May Walker. Adding onto the Vehicle Inspection checklist (vehicle left unlocked, window cracked or opened, valuables left visible in car, etc), the Constable added a Home Inspection section that calls out items related to Home Inspection (home looks empty and unlived in, shrubs over grown and lawn uncut, curtains opened and personal items in plain view, etc).

photo 1

Intrigued by this smart and great crime prevention idea, I sought out to meet with Constable Walker and Chief Goree Anderson. Below is the interview that was held in December 2012.

Eric: Out of all the inspection points listed on the report card, is there one that stands out?

Chief Anderson: Car unlocked and purse on the seat visible for everyone to see.

Eric: Name one thing about yourself that most people don’t know?

Constable Walker: I attended a convent when I was younger. I had wanted to be a nun, but I didn’t stay there long.

Chief Anderson: I love motorcycles. I have a Harley and I ride with a law enforcement group. (In case you are wondering, Chief Anderson said group and not ‘gang’).

Eric: Constable Walker, you were the first female patrol officer in HPD, Executive Assistant to Mayor Brown, wrote a book “The History of the Black Police Officer in the Houston Police Department 1888-1988,” and also are a Constable. Which of these careers has brought you the most joy?

Constable Walker: Working as Constable and writing the book have brought me lots of joy.

Eric: What causes you the most anxiety about working as Chief?

Chief Anderson: Officer Safety. I want my guys to come home in peace.

Eric: Imagine you are Chief of Police of the largest city in the world. What kinds of tactics would you implement to help fight crime?

Constable Walker: It doesn’t matter if the city is big or small. It’s all about keeping the community safe and making sure police officers don’t get complacent.

Eric: Is there anyone past or present that you admire?

Chief Anderson: Lee Brown as well. He was one of the most intellectual and fascinating people I have ever met. The idea of community oriented policing was developed by him and is still practiced today.

Constable Walker: Lee Brown. He was Chief of Police in Atlanta and Houston, Drug Czar for President Clinton, and Mayor of Houston. One day he called me into his office and told me that he wanted me to write a book. I said, “I don’t know how to write a book.” He said, “I believe you can.”, and he was right.

Constable Report Card