Addressing Homelessness in Flour Bluff

Flour Bluff, Front Page, Government and Politics, Health, Law Enforcement
Melanie Hambrick addresses FBCC (Photo by SevenTwelve Photography)

       On October 16, 2017, members of the Flour Bluff Citizens Council were joined by city, county, and state elected officials and city staff to hear a presentation on homelessness in Corpus Christi and Flour Bluff.  Melanie Hambrick, a Flour Bluff resident who has served on the city’s Advisory Council for Homelessness, Mental Illness, and Substance Abuse, Kae Berry of Timon’s Ministries, and CCPD Chief Mark Schauer helped to educate the residents in the audience at the regular general meeting held at Grace Community Church on Flour Bluff Drive.

     Hambrick began her part of the presentation with a definition of homeless.  “Though many definitions exist, for our purposes we will define homeless as chronic, those who have been continuously homeless for one year; transitional, individuals who have experienced a single episode of homelessness lasting an average of one to two months; and episodic, an individual with three or more episodes within the last year rendering him homeless,” she said. Hambrick said that research indicates the primary reasons for homelessness to be addiction, poverty, lack of housing, lack of affordable health care, domestic violence, and mental health issues among others.  “The number of homeless changes daily, and finding these individuals to talk to them about their personal experiences is challenging and therefore cannot be accurate,” stated Hambrick.

Data based on the 2017 Point-in-Time Survey of 611 individuals in Corpus Christi.  This annual survey is required by the U.S. Dep’t. of Housing and Urban Development.

     “There are lots of factors that contribute to chronic homelessness.  When people are released from public institutio or public systems without adequate discharge planning, they are more likely to become homeless,” said Hambrick.  “Adequate discharge planning is a crucial element to the long-term success of these individuals. Reasons given include release from correctional institutions, release from hospitals, release from mental institutions, children aging out of foster care, and migration for jobs.”  Hambrick added that Corpus Christi becomes a destination for the homeless because of the mild winters and places that lend themselves to living outside, such as bridges, brushy areas, and beaches.

     “All of this does come with a cost to the taxpayer,” said Hambrick.  Though she did not have exact data for Corpus Christi, Hambrick gave the national average, which is estimated between $30 and $40 thousand per individual annually. “This cost is absorbed by many.  For example, the cost for processing and holding of individuals in correctional institutions, hospitals that do not refuse those who seek medical attention, and court-appointed attorneys who represent those who have been arrested, to name a few.”  This does not include the cost to clean up homeless camps in public spaces and parks, which would be absorbed by the Solid Waste Department or the Parks and Recreation Department.

     Hambrick provided data on what services are available for the homeless in Corpus Christi:

  • 10 agencies provide shelter totaling approximately 600 beds (none in Flour Bluff identified and many serve specific populations)
  • 14 identified churches and organizations provide food (none in Flour Bluff identified)
  • 7 agencies, including Timon’s Ministries in Flour Bluff, provide health care and case management services
Kae Berry of Timon’s Ministries (Photo by SevenTwelve Photography)

     Kae Berry of Timon’s Ministries told the group that Timon’s was incorporated in 1999 and opened for business in 2000.  “I started there as a volunteer serving food,” she said.  “A year later I became the director, and I’m still there.”  Berry explained that it really began back in the eighties at St. Peter’s by the Sea UMC on Waldron Road as a shelter for the homeless.  “They were feeding the homeless who camped near there out the back door of the church.  It grew and grew and grew.  Then, other churches got involved, and they formed Timon’s.  When it first opened, we were really feeding only homeless people,” Berry said.  “Because of the development of the Flour Bluff area, the number of homeless in Flour Bluff has diminished significantly.  Currently, only about 5% of the people we feed are homeless, usually the chronic homeless.”

     “Our goal at Timon’s is to help people not be homeless,” said Berry.  “Most of the folks we see are people who are just hanging on by a thread.”  Berry told of how they serve many children whose parents have been incarcerated and who are being raised by indigent grandparents who live on fixed incomes and could barely afford to feed and care for themselves, much less the grandchildren. “Those in need are welcome at Timon’s.  If they don’t behave themselves,” Berry said, “they can’t be there.  There may be more homeless wandering around out here, but we don’t see them because they’ve been banned.”

     Berry said that Timon’s is really working to help the working poor and the disabled poor.  “I don’t feel the government does enough for these people, and that’s who we’re after.  We have a doctor on board who has 1700 charts; most of those people are not homeless.  A few are homeless, and with them most of what we do is wound care, spider bites, and that sort of thing,” said Berry.  “We’re helping the uninsured, and it keeps them out of the ER.  This started in 2012.  We opened the first dental clinic in 2009, the first in the Coastal Bend.  We have 3400 charts for people who come in for dental care from all over the place, not just Flour Bluff.”

     “We also help with things like driver’s licenses, birth certificates, and the kinds of things that get people back on the road so they can get a job.  You can’t do anything without an ID; without a birth certificate, you’re dead in the water.  All of this costs money,” said Berry.  “We move about three tons of groceries out every month.  That is increased since Hurricane Harvey since we’re helping a lot of folks with emergency food.  We’re also helping with their medicines.  This is not the time to be standing in water with your house down around your knees to be without your blood pressure pills.  We’re glad to help folks with these things.  However, if we’re going to spend a farthing on you, you must pass the drug test.  We will feed you and give you groceries because there are children involved, but for anything else you have to pass what we lovingly call the ‘Whiz Quiz’.”

     According to Berry, running Timon’s costs about $323,000 a year to operate, most of which comes through grant funding.  Hurricane Harvey did damage to the Timon’s building, leaving them with a 30-year loan for its repair. When clients do not behave, Berry said they call the police and issue a criminal trespass. Timon’s Ministries is located at 10501 South Padre Island Drive next to Pizza Hut and is open from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. daily.  Berry can be contacted by phone at 361-937-6196 or by e-mail, timonsministries@sbcglobal.net.

Chief Mike Markle (Photo by SevenTwelve Photography)

     Representatives from law enforcement agencies were present at the meeting, including Constable Mitchell Clark and Chief Mike Markle who brought several officers to answer questions.  “We often receive phone calls and emails from the public asking what we’re going to do about the homeless.  Unless a crime is committed, we can’t do much.  Homelessness is not a crime.  I understand the frustration of property owners.  I’m a property owner of Flour Bluff,” said Markle.

     “When crimes are committed by the homeless, we deal with those.  However, homeless folks, more often than not, are victims of crimes rather than instigators of crimes,” said Markle.  “We do have many homeless because they see Corpus Christi and its mild climate as a destination city.  They see this and the very giving and charitable nature of the city as reasons to come here, so they get on a bus or get a ride and head down here. I doubt that Corpus Christi will ever be without homeless.  It is more of an issue of co-existing and everyone maintaining qualities of life while being charitable, while being cognizant of the law, while enforcing the laws so that others aren’t impacted negatively by their presence,” continued Markle.  He encouraged the residents to get in touch with Captain Lee Weber who is the district captain in charge of the Flour Bluff area.  He can be contacted by phone  (361) 826-4052  or email: weldonw@cctexas.com.

Chief Markle and Captain Lee Weber (Photo by SevenTwelve Photography)

     “We are very much involved in homeless issues outside of just police work,” said Markle as he introduced Assistant Chief Mark Schauer,  a 35-year veteran of the police department, who offered additional information about the homeless situation in Corpus Christi and Flour Bluff.  “Chief Schauer has been involved in many homeless initiatives, serving on various boards and working with the Coalition for the Homeless , Metro Ministries, and Charlie’s Place.  He’s also been involved in the Point-in-Time Surveys – as were many of our staff in the police department.”

     “When I got this job, I had been homeless for about five months, but it’s a different kind of homelessness. You can’t paint everybody with the same brush of homelessness.  Some are homeless because of domestic violence, some for drugs and emotional conditions.  You have young people being kicked out of their homes.  The average age of the homeless, as I learned from serving over four years on the Metro Ministries board, is sometimes nine years old.  A mother with kids drives down the average age, and there are lots of mothers with kids who have no place to go,” said Shauer.

Assistant Chief Mark Schauer (Photo by SevenTwelve Photography)

     “In my case, I graduated from college, worked for my dad for a year, and decided I didn’t want to live in Illinois any more.  So, I got in my truck and left.  I camped out of my truck on the beach, under overpasses, even the JFK Causeway, and places where I was kicked out because I didn’t know I couldn’t camp there.  A week before the academy started I rented a room in a mobile home on the other side of town.  That was my first place.  I had money in the bank and a desire to get a job, not really the same as for many homeless.”

     Schauer shared with the audience information about homelessness in Corpus Christi and Flour Bluff that he and other officers received from a two-year survey with over 400 homeless people.  “We learned that a lot of the people interviewed were homeless less than a year.  Many were not from here but didn’t say why they came here.  A lot of them admitted to having drug and psychological problems.  Some who said they didn’t have psychological problems admitted to being treated for psychological problems,” said Schauer.

 

     “If you ask the intake officer at the city detention center, he’ll tell you that he hardly ever sees a PI (public intoxication) for alcohol any more.  It’s all synthetics.  It’s easy to get and extremely cheap. They can share it. They can take a blunt and make it last for days because they can get high with just a couple of hits. And, it’s deadly. If you see people leaning against a building – looking like a zombie or something – almost for sure they’re on synthetics,” said Schauer. “We think it’s a waste of time to give money to these folks, so we put up the ‘Keep the Change’ signs.  We prefer that you give to the shelters, give to Timon’s, give to somebody, but don’t flat out give them cash.  I think it’s the worst thing you can do.”  Later in the presentation, Schauer told the audience how they could tell if synthetic use is going on in their area.  “Look for the cigarillo packages like Swisher Sweets.”

Image result for cigarillos for weed
Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

     “We also found out through the survey is that 7% – or about 28 people – said they are just satisfied being homeless.  These are the ones you see all the time,” Schauer said as he described one particular barefooted man whom he sees sometimes 20 times in a day around City Hall.  “He is the face of homelessness for me, but it’s not the representative face because there isn’t one.  Some are mothers.  Some are people who came here for jobs that they didn’t get. This is a complex issue.  All we can do is enforce the law and try to keep it at bay.”

     Shauer said that he worked on the aggressive panhandling ordinance that prevents people from repeatedly asking for money.  “Talking to you is a First Amendment right, but they can’t continually ask you or approach you aggressively.  We can stop it when they’re in the roadway, and we do that a lot.  When we make an arrest for that, it’s an endless cycle.  They don’t have the money to pay, and we don’t have debtors prison.  You can’t hold them.  We arrest them.  They magistrate them and then release them.  We pick them up and try to interrupt their cycle.”

     Some of the homeless activity, Shauer said, takes place on private property, and the police cannot legally get back in there without the permission of the property owner.  “Flour Bluff is unique in that it has large, brushy areas privately owned by oil companies and such, but without their express permission or a direct request, we can’t just go onto the property. Some of these camps are elaborate and look like Apocalypse Now.  If you see them and tell us, then we can address it through the property owner,” he said.

     Shauer explained that many of the people are mentally disabled or emotionally unsound, but there is not a lot of money for them.   “We wish there was.  We commit a lot of people who are out a few days later.  There is no long-term treatment facility unless they are sent to SASH (San Antonio State Hospital),” said Shauer.  “I sit on the board for Charlie’s Place, and they have what they call scholarships for the people we encounter on the streets.  We have a special unit that works around City Hall and out in the Bluff around Parker Park and along Graham Road.  Our bike officers offer them some of these spots at Charlie’s Place, but they don’t always take them up on it, so they end up getting arrested.”

     When asked by a Citizens Council member why these people are not made to work even though they appear to be able to do so.  Shauer responded by saying that some are truly disabled mentally or physically; some will but look for ways to sue the property owner; others do work at Metro Ministries and earn their keep; still others simply do not want to work.  At the Rainbow House, the women are working or going through a job program, and all the kids are in school or in childcare Shauer explained.

     Another member asked what can be done about them urinating or defecating in the park.  “We have ordinances that address that, and they can be ticketed.  We have to see it.  Call us out, and we’ll come out and talk to them.  Most of the time they comply with our requests.”

    Shauer was asked if anyone had used drones to fly over some of the larger brush-covered areas to locate homeless camps.  “No.  We have to respect private rights, too. Just about everything out here (Flour Bluff) is privately owned, and we would need the permission of the property owner to do something like that,” Shauer said.

     Melanie Hambrick talked about possible solutions.  “Many components are necessary for a successful plan to end homelessness,” she said.  “However a plan is just a plan if no action is taken.  It is clearly a waste of time and effort.  This is a community issue, and government can only be part of the solution.”  Hambrick outlined some actions that could be taken immediately, such as locating a coordinated entry center for those in need where they will be met with a process that will maximize potential assistance in changing the homeless person’s current situation.  She added that service organizations that work in tandem with the Texas Homeless Network will provide solutions and pathways for individuals to become self-sufficient.  “This will also aid in our ability to collect true data on homelessness in our area,” Hambrick added.

     Hambrick stated that all who are serving the homeless in some way should take a “collective impact approach” to combat homelessness.  “This means that previously independent and uncoordinated programs in Flour Bluff that address the needs of the homeless should be coordinated to work toward common goals.  Leadership and civic engagement should be collaborative at all levels across all sectors,” she said.  The FBCC meeting ended with an appeal to the churches, businesses, and residents to take an active role in helping solve what is a daunting task for any community.

     At the October 17, 2017 City Council meeting, Amy Granberry, Chairperson for the Advisory Council for Homelessness, Mental Illness, and Substance Abuse briefed the council on four recommendations, echoing what Hambrick presented at the Flour Bluff Citizens Council meeting the night before.  Almost all council members were in favor of moving forward with two or three of the recommendations, but District 4 Councilman Greg Smith lead the charge by strongly suggesting that all four recommendations be acted upon swiftly.  The four recommendations are as follows:

  • Coordinated entry to ensure that all people experiencing a housing crisis have fair and equal access and are quickly identified, assessed for, referred, and connected to housing and assistance based on their strengths and needs.
  • Parks and Recreation Homeless Workers Program, which is based on the City of Albuquerque’s “There’s a Better Way” Program.  Workers will pick up trash and beautify the city and will work in conjunction with the Community Service Workers Program in the Parks and Recreation Department.
  • Tent City / Tiny Homes in which city could partner with businesses to build a tiny home community  by providing city-owned land and CDBG funding to build bathrooms and showers where residents would be charged a reasonable rent fee.
  • Family Reunification Program, which is a one-time use program designed to reunite homeless with supportive family outside of Corpus Christi.

NOTE:  For information on how you can help, contact Lt. Chris Hooper, Melanie Hambrick, or Shirley Thornton

at

fbcitizenscouncil@gmail.com.

Retired from education after serving 30 years (twenty-eight as an English teacher and two years as a new-teacher mentor), Shirley enjoys her life with family and friends while serving her community, church, and school in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is the creator and managing editor of The Paper Trail, an online news/blog site that serves to offer new, in-depth, and insightful responses to the events of the day.

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Deal too Good to Be True on a Used Car?

Corpus Christi, Law Enforcement

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

     “The car was beautiful. Everything was immaculate,” said Paul Adams, who unknowingly bought a flood-damaged car in 2009, according to a CNBC report by Annie Nova.  The vehicle had been damaged in Hurricane Katrina in 2005 but did not start to show its damage until later.

     At the Flour Bluff town hall meeting on Monday, September 18, Melissa Castro, Corpus Christi Police Department Auto Theft Task Force Project Manager, cautioned those in attendance about buying used – and even new – vehicles after a storm like Harvey from a used car lot or an individual.  In the literature she distributed at the meeting, she shared valuable tips for making “sniffing out” a seller who may try to sell you a vehicle with hidden damage.

     “Cars are rolling computers these days. When water gets as high as it did with Harvey, we’re going to see significant damage,” said John Van Alst, attorney at the National Consumer Law Center.  

     If you are shopping for a vehicle, follow these tips:

  • Be alert to damp or musty odors.
  • Check for carpet/upholstery that has been replaced or recently shampooed.  Pull back the carpet at different areas and look for mud, dirt, or signs of water stains.
  • Look for dirt build-up especially on the underside of the dashboard.  This area is hard to clean.
  • Inspect for rust under the vehicle.  Corrosion is uncommon in new vehicles.
  • Look for rust, mud, dirt, or discoloration in small, out-of-the-way crevices on the doors under the hood or inside of the trunk.
  • Ensure electrical components, such as lighting, heater/AC fan, window motors, and more are all functioning properly.
  • Get a pre-purchase inspection of the used vehicle by a trusted mechanic.
  • Check the vehicle’s history; acquire a CARFAX Vehicle History Report.  The report may reveal if the car has been in a flood or been issued a salvage title.

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons

     Other websites that offer additional valuable information are as follows:

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

  • All DMVs throughout the U. S. Report to NMVTIS.
  • Total loss flood-damaged vehicles will be recorded in ISO, NMVTIS, and TEXAS DMV databases.
  • A catastrophe code is assigned to Hurricane Harvey losses.  NICB will pull the total loss flood damage vehicles based upon a flag placed by TEXAS DMV along with the catastrophe code assigned to Hurricane Harvey and enter the VIN record into the NICB Vincheck.

     Castro encouraged citizens to contact her office for more information or to report vehicle burglary, theft, and insurance fraud.

Corpus Christi Police Department

Melissa Castro

Auto Theft Task Force Project Manager

Office  361-886-2872

MelissaMa@cctexas.com

Retired from education after serving 30 years (twenty-eight as an English teacher and two years as a new-teacher mentor), Shirley enjoys her life with family and friends while serving her community, church, and school in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is the creator and managing editor of The Paper Trail, an online news/blog site that serves to offer new, in-depth, and insightful responses to the events of the day.

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The Constable’s Corner:  Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville

Front Page, History, Law Enforcement

Hello everyone!  We have had a busy first half of 2017 here at Pct. 2, from uniform changes (going back to Stetson hats), policy changes, continuing peace officer education classes, upgrades to our technology systems, new web site, new Facebook page, the day-to day services my department provides, our community policing programs, and our hugely successful “Pray for Police” wristband giveaway. All of these successes were not possible without the dedication of my officers, administrative staff, and the ever-growing support I receive each day from the citizens of Pct. 2.  Thank you from all of us at NCCO Pct. 2.

The Constable’s Corner

Yes, it has been a while since my last publication.  This month’s focus is on the Texas State Prison at Huntsville, Texas.

       A few months ago, I attended Constable’s School at Sam Houston State University.  During that week, which was crammed full of lectures and training, I got a tour by a Captain of the Guards of the prison.  The University is located right next to the prison and right in the heart of town.  I got to see the Walls Unit, Death Row, Educational Unit, Recreational Unit, and the Leather Shop.  Most interesting to me was the stories – the old stories – which is where I begin in this month’s Corner.

     The prison is officially the Huntsville Unit.  The prison’s red brick walls led to the nickname “Walls Unit”. The prison’s first inmates arrived in October 1849.  Originally, women in the Texas Prison System were housed in the Huntsville Unit.  Beginning in 1883, women were housed in the Johnson Farm, a privately owned cotton plantation near Huntsville.  The Huntsville Penitentiary was the only prison in the eleven Confederate states still standing at the end of the Civil War, at which time it entered a dramatic period of its history. The increase in lawlessness that accompanied the end of the war resulted in more persons being sentenced to prison.

Famous Escape Attempts from the Walls Unit 

       In January 1934, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow hid guns in the field for their friends, Joe Palmer and Ray Hamilton.  These guns led to the death of J. Crowson, the first correctional officer killed in the line of duty.  The prisoners who were caught received the death penalty for the killing of Officer Crowson.  For Bonnie and Clyde, this was the last straw for them.  This eventually resulted in their deaths in a hail of automatic gunfire in a Louisiana ambush.

Old Sparky (Photo provided by Mitchell Clark)

     Whitey Walker was the leader of probably the most successful bank robber in Texas during the 1930’s, the Whitey Walker Gang.  They were much better than Bonnie and Clyde because Whitey subscribed to the John Dillinger school on robbing banks……..plan, plan, and plan.  The Barrow Gang had no planning, no escapes routes planned.  They just walked in, robbed the bank, and left.  The problem was that most of the time the banks they robbed had no money due to the Great Depression.

Various devices used to restrain inmates over the years (Photo courtesy of Mitchell Clark)

     While in the Walls Unit, Whitey Walker wanted his dear friend, Blackie Thompson, to be saved from the electric chair.  This also included death row inmates Joe Palmer and Raymond Hamilton of Bonnie and Clyde fame.  Walker had guns smuggled into the prison with the help of a guard.  A huge gunfight ensued between the guards, and the convicts as the prisoners were climbing a ladder trying to get over the wall.  Walker was killed by Guard Roberts.  The three prisoners made it over the Wall to an awaiting getaway vehicle. 

     In 1974, the prison was the site of an eleven-day siege, one of the longest hostage-taking sieges in United States history. Three armed inmates (Fred Carrasco, Ignacio Cuevas, and Rudy Dominguez) held several hostages in the education department. The ring leader, Carrasco, had been a porter in the chapel. Cuevas usually worked in the inmate dining hall. Ten hostages were employees of the prison system; two were educators, and one was a guard.  Even the prison chaplain, Catholic priest Joseph O’Brien and four prisoners were taken hostage. On the final day, the inmates tried to escape using chalkboards and hostages as shields.  Dominquez was killed in the attempt. Carrasco killed Elizabeth Beseda, a teacher, then shot himself.  Julia Standley, the librarian, was also killed that day. Ignacio Cuevas was executed on May 23, 1991, for Standley’s murder. I am told by jailers from the Sheriff Johnny Mitchell days that Carrasco was a prisoner at the Nueces County jail and was transferred from Corpus Christi to Huntsville.

     One of my favorite stories is that of Dr. B.W. Jones. Dr. Jones was an intellect, a professor of psychology with an I.Q. higher than the sun and a true photographic memory. In 1955, Dr. Jones so impressed the warden with his background and intellect, he was immediately hired as a lieutenant of the guard, rose to captain, and eventually became Assistant Warden.  Captain Jones set out to change the way prisoners were treated, instituting a rewards for good behavior system, sensitivity training, and treating prisoners in a way they were not used to.  Capt. Jones was a big guy, six feet and 300 pounds, and he would get in any inmate’s face – even when threatened with violence – and calm the situation.  The convicts couldn’t figure him out, and his guards thought he was either very brave or crazy.

     Then a funny thing happened.  A prisoner was reading in Life Magazine about a man named Ferdinand Waldo Demara.  He showed the picture to the guard and said, “Doesn’t this guy look just like Cap’n.   Jones?”  The Warden confronted Jones about the picture.  He denied it, went into a tirade, gathered his belongings, left, and was never to be seen in Texas again.

Ferdinand Waldo Demara (Photo courtesy of Creative Commons)

     Demara was one of the biggest impostors the world had ever known.  He could speak nine languages and could read and remember 5 books a night.  He impersonated a surgeon (doing actual surgery), a monk, psychologist, lawyer, teacher, minister, dean at college, engineer, zoologist and – yes – a warden in the Texas Prison at Huntsville.

Other Notable Huntsville Inmates

John Wesley Hardin:  One of the most notorious outlaws and killers in Texas; said to have killed 42 men;  sent to Huntsville in 1877 for 25 years but was released in 1894 and was subsequently gunned down by the Constable in El Paso in 1896.

Duane “Dog” Chapman:   Served 18 months for a murder in 1976; well known for his top hit reality show, “Dog the Bounty Hunter.”

David Crosby:   Sentenced to 5 years for drugs and weapons in 1983; began serving in 1986 and was paroled 5 months later; famed lead singer for rock group Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young.

Semper Fi,

Constable Mitchell Clark

Learn all about your constable by going to his new web site: ConstableMitchellClark.net and FaceBook @ Nueces County Constable Precinct 2

 

References:

Time Magazine, 1974

Wikipedia, “Huntsville”

The Wall, Patrick McDonnan

Texas Prison Museum

Constable Clark is the duly elected official for the Pct. 2 Constable’s Office. He has been involved in the Nueces County Constable operations since 1981 and holds a Masters Peace Officers license from the State of Texas. He is a licensed attorney in Texas and Tennessee and in the U.S. Supreme Court. He is a former Marine with assignments as a military policeman with a specialty in corrections and as highly prestigious Marine Corps Drill Instructor @ MCRD San Diego. Constable Clark knows the law.

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The Constable’s Corner: What Does COP Mean?

Corpus Christi, Flour Bluff, Front Page, Human Interest, Law Enforcement

     Several popular etymologies for cop exist for this word now commonly used for policeman.  One offers it up as an acronym standing for “Constable on Patrol” or “Chief of Police.”  Another states that the first police officers in London (or perhaps another city–it varies in the telling) had copper buttons on their uniforms.  Still, another source asserts copper badges, not copper buttons, gave them the name.  Some of the first New York City police officers reportedly wore badges made from copper.  The most common stories trace cop or copper to the copper buttons or copper police badges.

     The police “sense” of the terms probably originates from the Latin word capere, meaning, “to seize,” which also gave us capture.  Cop as a slang term, meaning “to catch, snatch, or grab” appeared in English in the 18th century.  Ironically, it was originally used among thieves; a copper was a street thief.  By the middle of the 19th century, criminals apprehended by the police were said to have themselves been copped, caught by the coppers or cops.  And there you have the etymology of cop.  “Case closed,” as the cops say.

     Or, is it?  Lexicographers and etymologists have long disputed the actual origin of the verb copper.  It either derives from the Dutch kapen, meaning “to take” or from the Old Frisian capia, meaning, “to buy.”  It may even derive from the French caper, meaning “to take”, which also comes from the Latin capere.

     To make matters even more complicated, the acronym COP has many meanings, most of which are unrelated to law enforcement. Following are just a few:  COP Copper; COP Chief Of Police; COP College of Pharmacy (Xavier University of Louisiana); COP Coefficient Of Performance; COP Code of Practice; COP Coil on Plug (automotive ignition); COP Court of Protection (UK); COP Cost of Production (agriculture); COP Citizens On Patrol; COP ConocoPhillips (stock symbol); COP Chief of Party (various locations); COP Canada Olympic Park; COP Congressional Oversight Panel (US Senate).

     For me, I’m somewhat partial to Constable on Patrol.  It has been said that the Constables back in jolly ol’ England went to the livery stable and checked out a horse, lantern, and night stick. In a record book, they would write “constable on patrol” and record the time they went to work. Like so many others, I was told that eventually someone got tired of writing all of this and shortened the entry to COP and then entered the time.  We may never really get to close the case on the origin of this little word.

Semper Fi,

Constable Clark, your Constable on Patrol

Learn all about your constable by going to his new web site: ConstableMitchellClark.net

 

Constable Clark is the duly elected official for the Pct. 2 Constable’s Office. He has been involved in the Nueces County Constable operations since 1981 and holds a Masters Peace Officers license from the State of Texas. He is a licensed attorney in Texas and Tennessee and in the U.S. Supreme Court. He is a former Marine with assignments as a military policeman with a specialty in corrections and as highly prestigious Marine Corps Drill Instructor @ MCRD San Diego. Constable Clark knows the law.

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