Skip to comments.Crime lab woes put heat on Bradford (Houston PD Chief)
Posted on 06/20/2003 6:05:26 AM PDT by wysiwyg
Houston City Council members and police union officials Thursday pressured Police Chief C.O. Bradford to resign amid the latest revelations that he has known about the problems in his department's crime lab for four years.
Bradford has called a news conference for 11 a.m. today.
A majority of council members said a series of problems beyond the crime lab at HPD has damaged their confidence in Bradford, including last summer's mass arrests at a westside Kmart and his trial on aggravated perjury charges, for which he was acquitted.
"He should take the high road and resign," said Councilman Gabriel Vasquez, who has consistently raised questions about mismanagement in the Police Department. "He deserves an opportunity to explain himself to council and the public, but short of that, he should (go)."
Eight of Vasquez's 13 fellow council members told the Chronicle they agreed.
The Houston Police Officers Union, which has long expressed its dissatisfaction with the chief, also called for his resignation.
"It's time for him to step down," said union chief Hans Marticiuc.
Mayor Lee Brown issued a statement late Thursday acknowledging Bradford's work in correcting problems at the lab, but the support was lukewarm.
"The chief is doing what needs to be done," according to the statement issued by the mayor's office. " ... But equally important, I want the people of our city to have confidence in our system of justice. We're working toward that, and I think in a short period of time we'll look back on this as a problem that was discovered and a problem that was resolved. Let's not lose sight of the fact that Chief Bradford has been a very good chief for this city."
The DNA division of the crime lab was shut down after an audit last year uncovered problems, including sloppy science and an undertrained staff. That audit led to a review by the Harris County district attorney's office of more than 1,300 cases analyzed by the lab. Prosecutors have ordered new tests on evidence from 300 cases. Most retests have supported the lab's initial findings. But one man, Josiah Sutton, was released from prison after serving more than four years for rape. The retest showed none of Sutton's DNA among the evidence. Cases against several other convicts have been weakened.
On Thursday, the Chronicle reported that internal Police Department memos showed that Bradford had known about problems at the lab since at least 1999. The documents contradict recent comments by Bradford, who has claimed that he was unaware of the situation at the lab until the audit exposed them in December.
Bradford declined to be interviewed on Thursday but arranged to meet with reporters today.
"He's letting everyone put the spin on what has occurred here. He can either fight back, give his version of the story and move on, or be quiet and move on," Marticiuc said. "But either way, it's time to move on."
While most of the council members interviewed Thursday chose their words carefully, there is clearly a rising sentiment among them that the chief needs to quit.
Councilman Mark Ellis said it would be in the best interest of the department and the city to have Bradford resign to restore public confidence in the department.
Bradford should be gone by the end of next week, said Councilman Bert Keller, who added that the mayor should encourage the chief to resign.
"He's either the fall guy for the mayor," Keller said. "Or, if these are his decisions, then it probably warrants being fired."
Councilwoman Carol Mims Galloway was the only one who said she still has confidence in the chief.
"Chief Bradford is doing a fantastic job," she said. "Eventually all of this will clear up, and we'll be back on track. This, too, shall pass."
Galloway added that the Police Department is not the only legal jurisdiction involved in criminal cases, yet, "I don't hear anyone calling for (Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal's) resignation," she said.
Twenty-two state district judges did ask Rosenthal to recuse himself from the investigation of the crime lab, as did a grand jury. Rosenthal has refused.
Although Bradford is appointed by the mayor, council members flexed their muscle Thursday, with Annise Parker suggesting the council has extra leverage with the mayor because it is in the process of approving Brown's fiscal 2004 budget.
"If (Bradford) knew and did nothing, then he owes the community an apology and he needs to be replaced. I'm hopeful that's not the case," Councilwoman Ada Edwards said.
Rather than speculate about what he knew and when, she said she would rather hear it from him.
Time after time, Bradford has been given the benefit of the doubt, Councilman Bruce Tatro said. And the chief's silence throughout this debacle has only exacerbated the situation.
"He needs to start singing like a canary. Now that doubt has been removed, to play things close to the vest and not say anything will greatly work against him," Tatro said. "The worst thing he can do is remain silent."
In addition to his scheduled meeting with reporters Friday, Bradford is also set to appear before the council next Wednesday to answer questions about a pending contract to have the National Forensic Science Technology Center manage the department's crime lab for up to three months.
So much for the infallibility of DNA testing.