Eclectic commentary from a progressive voice in the red state

Friday, June 19, 2015

Government must reclaim its integrity

About three weeks ago, ABC 7 News ran a story about allegations that Amarillo Police Department officers beat a black man, Robert Johnson, during an incident on the north side of town. Today, the Amarillo Globe-News reports that Blackburn and Brown, a law firm headed by civil rights advocate and attorney Jeff Blackburn, has asked for DNA testing on bags that APD officers allege they found on Johnson during that incident. The cops allege that the bags contained marijuana. The implications in the article are clear. Johnson’s attorneys are suggesting that the cops planted the weed on Johnson.

But wait, there’s more — more dots to connect.

According to the Globe-News, the testing is to be done at a private lab in Virginia, not the taxpayer-owned and -funded Department of Public Safety lab. That’s probably a good decision. It seems that DPS can’t be trusted.

As I reported in my companion blog in April, the Dallas Morning News’ Dave Lieber told us “the state is selling our private information to firms so they can market their wares to us.” Today, Lieber exposes DPS’ lies about its TrapWire system, a high-level surveillance system to ostensibly catch terrorists. Turned out, the DPS claim of TrapWire resulting in 44 arrests was false. Worse, not only was the TrapWire claim false, but so was another DPS claim about drug seizures. And before that was the DPS claim some time ago about DPS troopers confiscating jars of urine and feces from pro-choice advocates during a debate before the state Legislature that was also a lie.

And that brings the story back to the city of Amarillo and the Amarillo Police Department, which is now reeling from allegations that one of its officers, Micah Meurer, sexually assaulted a woman while on duty. As the story and subsequent investigation unfolded, you can’t help but notice that none of the stories about Meurer mention APD Chief Robert Taylor — at least so far. The public face so far has been Acting Chief Kenneth Funtek.

Now let’s connect the dots.

To those of you who work for taxpayers in government jobs at all levels: In case you’ve not noticed, you and your jobs are under attack by the Tea Party and other conservatives who think government is too big, inept and corrupt. Every time you tolerate and fail to cure incompetence or corruption in your ranks, you give the anti-government forces more ammunition to take away your jobs. Your greatest and best self-interest is to make sure you and your co-workers are part of a government that delivers services with integrity and competence.

Then, there is the message for Amarillo, its City Council, with its new members and city leadership: You face a daunting task of righting two horrible wrongs. You must figure out a way to completely reboot and redirect the downtown revitalization activity while minimizing the downside of curing any contractual issues with other entities, especially and specifically the hotel and garage developers. And, you need to see the operational problems — the day-to-day service delivery — are solved.

Our nation and government was founded on integrity. It’s time to reclaim that way of governing.