The Houston Police Department has a huge problem. A recent no-knock drug raid ended with two “suspects” killed and four officers wounded. The PD says no-knock entrances are safer for officers, not that you’d draw that conclusion from this raid.
The problem the PD has is its drug warriors are dirty. The raid was predicated on a tip from a confidential informant who doesn’t appear to exist. The warrant contained sworn statements about a heroin purchase that never happened and a large quantity of heroin packaged for sale that was not among the things seized from the dead couple’s residence. The heroin central to the raid appears to have been taken from the console of an officer’s squad car and run to the lab for some very unnecessary testing.
Houston police officer Gerald Goines is the person behind this completely avoidable chain of events. After initially backing his officers, Police Chief Art Acevedo has reversed course in the face of contrary evidence he’s unable to ignore. His initial defense of officers who participated in a drug raid that only turned up personal use amounts of cocaine and marijuana was perhaps understandable, given his position. But it went against the image he’d made for himself as a reformer — someone who would clean up the department and repair its reputation.
A leaked recording of Acevedo speaking to officers after the killing of an unarmed, mentally ill man seemed to make it clear there was zero tolerance for the usual cop bullshit. Acevedo criticized his officers for needlessly escalating interactions, bullying citizens for failing to show the respect officers feel is owed to them, and teaming up on post-incident paperwork to ensure most bad deeds went unpunished.
But in the three years since that recording leaked, it appears little has changed. Officer Goines’ willingness to fabricate a story to engage in a no-knock drug raid — a narrative that included a nonexistent informant and drugs not purchased from the raided residence — shows he had little worry of being outed by other officers, much less criticized for his lawless behavior. Here’s how defense lawyer Mark Bennett phrased it after it was discovered Goines used a fictional informant and drugs from his own vehicle to craft a search warrant:
This doesn't happen if the cops don't feel safe doing it.
They don't feel safe doing it if there are honest cops around.
They always feel safe doing it. pic.twitter.com/pvkw91FLUc
— Learn to code. (@NoLongerBennett) February 15, 2019
If you can’t read/see the tweet, it says:
This doesn’t happen if the cops don’t feel safe doing it.
They don’t feel safe doing it if there are honest cops around.
They always feel safe doing it.
Incidents like these aren’t isolated. It’s not a rare bad apple. You don’t get to this point if you’re surrounded by good cops. You get to this point because no one cares about smaller violations of trust or bent rules. The cops who get caught are the ones who have everything come off the rails at once. That happened to Goines: his drug raid produced death and injuries, resulting in a ton of public scrutiny and whole lot of questions Goines and the officers that enabled him aren’t going to be able to answer satisfactorily.
And there will be questions. The FBI has announced it will be investigating the fatal drug raid. If Goines doesn’t want to go to jail for lying to federal agents, he’s going to have to provide truthful answers that will possibly see him jailed for other charges.
There’s also a chance a whole lot of lawsuits will be filed against Goines and the Houston PD in the near future. The Harris County District Attorney says it’s going to be looking into every criminal investigation Goines touched during his years as a law enforcement officer.
The Harris County District Attorney’s Office has launched a review of more than 1,400 criminal cases spanning Houston Police Officer Gerald Goines’ 34-year career.
Twenty-seven of those cases are active.
“Our duty is to see that justice is done in every case,” Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said. “Although the criminal investigation of Officer Goines is ongoing, we have an immediate ethical obligation to notify defendants and their lawyers in Goines’ other cases to give them an opportunity to independently review any potential defenses.”
One case may have already been dismissed simply because Officer Goines was present during the arrest. His fellow officers, who were unwilling to step up and report Goines for previous misconduct, will now see their work undone as the DA’s office makes it way through Goines’ three decade paper trail. Current prosecutions are likely to end up dismissed and any ongoing investigations he was involved in will probably be put on hold. Any one of the 1,400 cases being looked at could result in litigation that could drag his fellow officers into court to defend themselves against civil rights violation allegations.
Does this mean everything Goines did was illegal? Of course not, but the ease with which he fabricated a narrative to support a deadly drug raid suggests he’s been coloring outside the lines for a long time and receiving zero pushback or criticism for doing so.