The line of early voters waiting to cast their ballots stretched outside the Kingwood Branch Library last week. Signs for candidates greeted them as they waited. One candidate, Louis Guthrie, was there too, pressing the flesh and reminding people who to vote for. He’s been in law enforcement for more than two decades.
“Sheriff (Johnny) Klevenhagen hired me when I was 20 years old, so I’ve been doing this a long time. I was with the Sheriff’s office here in Harris County for 18 years, I left when Adrian came in. I sat back and watched, kinda as an outsider, and it appears to me that the things that he said he would fix he made worse, and things that weren’t broken he broke.”
Hernandez: “Can you be specific?”
Guthrie: “Well, if you take a look at the budget, that’s increased $100 million dollars since Tommy Thomas left office. The executive budget, which encompasses the sheriff and his majors, has gone from a $3.5 million dollar budget to roughly a $20 million dollar budget. It’s all seem to happen overnight.”
He says Sheriff Garcia has taken deputies off the street and into what he calls “boutique, feel good positions and squads,” which has resulted in almost a 30 percent increase in violent crime in Harris County.
“What we’re seeing happen is a career politician continue to politic for his next step, whatever that may be, instead of taking care of the business of the Harris County Sheriff’s office: putting criminals in jail, and making it safer for the citizens in the street.”
Guthrie claims he’s received endorsements from major law enforcement groups in Harris County and the statewide fraternal order of police.
Sheriff Adrian Garcia has been campaigning just as hard to keep his job. He says when he came into office in 2008, there was a multi million dollar budget overrun and jails were overcrowded.
“The budget was $56 million dollars over budget. We turned that into a $3 million dollar surplus, in spite of a tough economy. We brought overtime down. We’re hiring detention officers. We’re moving deputies to patrol. We have brought the jail population down. We’ve kept the lid on crime. We’re developing new programs, new strategies to deal with our challenges. The organization is moving forward.”
Garcia says Guthrie’s talk is nothing new. He says that happens when any candidate wants to unseat the incumbent.
“Opponents, who have nothing else to run on but criticism, are always going to try to use criticism as their chief platform. And it doesn’t work, I mean, because the citizens of Harris County understand what has occurred; the transformation that we have done over at the Sheriff’s office.”
After inheriting a department that was facing civil rights lawsuits and constant criticism, Garcia says he’s proud of turning it into a disciplined and efficient law enforcement agency.