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Texas Secretary Of State Faces Confirmation After Alleged ‘Voter Purge’, HPD Officer Relieved Of Duty After Deadly Narcotics Raid, And Activists Want Police Union President Investigated

These are some of the stories Houston Public Media is covering.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Top afternoon stories:

Texas Secretary Of State Nominee Faces Confirmation After Alleged ‘Voter Purge’

David Whitley, Governor Greg Abbott’s choice to be Texas Secretary of State, was the focus of a confirmation hearing Thursday. Most of the questioning of Whitley in the Senate Nominations Committee focused on the announcement last month that about 95,000 registered voters may not be U.S. citizens.

Since the original advisory from Whitley’s office was released, the 95,000 figure has decreased. Whitley said the goal is to have accurate voter rolls, but said he didn’t have an update on how much the original list has shrunk.

Senator Jose Menendez, a San Antonio Democrat, asked Whitley why the Secretary of State’s Office issued a statement to the media so early in the process that referred to removing people from voter rolls and even criminal prosecution.

The committee plans to vote on the nomination on February 14. If it goes to the full Senate, Whitley will need the support of two-thirds of senators voting, meaning he would need some support from Democrats to be confirmed.

HPD Officer Relieved Of Duty After Deadly Narcotics Raid

At least one of the narcotics officers involved in a search warrant that ended up in a shootout last week has been relieved of duty, the Houston Police Officers’ Union said Thursday. The officer is one of four that were wounded by gunfire. 

The HPOU said in a statement the relief of duty is “due to ongoing questions that cannot be answered until the case agent is interviewed.” 

The police union added that HPD “made the decision to relieve the officer of duty while a thorough investigation continues.” According to union officials, nearly all officers who are relieved of duty return to work after an investigation is completed. 

HPD Chief Art Acevedo also released a statement and said there is a lot of “speculation” about the circumstances of the shootout and urged the public to let the internal investigation that HPD is conducting “take its proper course and proceed to conclusion.”

Joseph ‘Joe’ Gamaldi, president of the Houston Police Officers’ Union.

Activists Want Houston’s Police Union President Investigated For Inciting Tensions

A local activist group that advocates for criminal justice reform and monitors law enforcement is calling for a federal and state investigation into comments made last week by the president of the police union after five HPD officers were wounded in a shootout while serving a search warrant.

Joe Gamaldi, president of the Houston Police Officers’ Union, said on January 28 that police “are sick and tired of having targets on our back.” He also said “we’ve got your number now, we’re going to be keeping track” of people who say law enforcement is the enemy. Gamaldi didn’t mention any person or organization by name, but referenced people who “stir the pot” with rhetoric about police officers.

The Greater Houston Coalition for Justice said in a statement Gamaldi “is inciting tensions between police and communities with his egregious comments” and his words justify a federal and state investigation.

Johnny Mata, the group’s presiding officer, noted that “Gamaldi went too far and all the work that has been done by a lot of people cannot go down the drain.” Mata fears the comments “will have a chilling effect on police-community relations.”