HOUSTON - The makeup of the Houston Police force is different than it was in the 1970s. However, some people insist officers still mistreat minorities.
For Houston and its police department, residents say some bad memories never burn out.
“I remember Moody Park because I was there,” said Sylvia Gonzalez, now the president of LULAC in Houston.
In 1978, police threw Jose Campos Torres into a bayou where he drowned near Moody Park. In anger, some people destroyed the park. Gonzalez and Ovide Duncantell, now the executive director of the Black Heritage Society in Houston, marched in protest.
“The chief of police (in 1978), you couldn’t talk to him,” Duncantell said. “He had nothing to do with the community, wanted nothing to do with them. He just wanted the black community and Hispanic community to know he was in control and he was in charge.”
Three decades later, Duncantell and Gonzalez see similar problems with police.
“Some things have changed, but not that much of the mentality,” Gonzalez said.
Houston City Councilman C.O. “Brad” Bradford was an officer for 24 years. He was chief for 7.
“The department has changed a lot in the last several decades,” he said.
In the 70s, Bradford said the force was mostly white men. The highest ranking minority in 1979 was a sergeant. Today, the chief is black and, according to 2010 statistics, nearly half the force is made up of minorities.
However, Wednesday’s not guilty verdict in the case of Andrew Blomberg, one of four officers charged in the videotaped beating of a black teenager, stirred emotions.
“That was an insult what happened yesterday,” he said.
Bradford believes there is a communication gap between citizens and cops. He said technology allows officers to gather information without talking to people in the community.
“There is a disconnect because the officers are busy running from call to call in police cars with windows up in air-conditioning and the citizens are in the neighborhood,” Bradford said.
For Gonzalez and Duncantell, greater accountability is missing, they said. They want a strong police review board. They said that would go a long way toward cooling bad memories of police abuse.