105 – Definitions

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The following definitions are given for clarification of the department policy only and shall not be construed as legal definitions.

Area of Control

That area from which a person could secure a weapon or evidence by exerting a limited amount of effort.


(1) The intentional seizure of a person, whether actual or presumed, by a peace officer who is acting under real or assumed legal authority (coupled with a recognition of the arrest by the person arrested) for the purpose of bringing him or her before a court to answer for the commission of an offense. (2) As defined in Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Article 15.22: A person is arrested when he has actually been placed under restraint or taken into custody by a peace officer or a person executing a warrant of arrest or by a peace officer or person arresting without a warrant.

Authority for Emergency Disaster Plan

The Emergency Disaster Plan of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) is a part of the Houston / Harris County Office of Emergency Management as directed by the Harris County Judge and Commissioners Court. The Office of Emergency Management Houston / Harris County Plan and the HCSO Emergency Disaster Plan are under the authority of the Texas Disaster Act of 1975, Section 5, Paragraph (g)(5) and (g)(7).

Certified Laboratory Personnel

Persons that have been certified on the proper handling of clandestine laboratories after attending a minimum of 40 hours of training.

Character Witness

A witness who testifies about a person’s character, reputation, or moral traits gathered from his or her observations or personal knowledge.


For purposes of interview and interrogation, a person who is:

  1. Ten years of age or older and under seventeen (17) years of age, or
  2. Seventeen (17) years of age or older and under eighteen (18) years of age who is alleged or found to have engaged in delinquent conduct indicating a need for supervision as a result of acts committed before becoming 17 years of age.
  3. The terms “juvenile” and “child” are synonymous.

Civilian Personnel

Employees of the HCSO who have been appointed to fulfill administrative or clerical positions and who do not require certification by TCOLE. Civilian personnel may additionally be referred to as non-uniformed personnel to distinguish them from uniformed personnel who hold TCOLE certification. Communications officers may be civilian personnel who possess a TCOLE license.

Clandestine Laboratory

A secret, elicit operation of sufficient apparatus and chemicals that either has been or could be used to manufacture or synthesize a controlled substance.

Classified Employee

An employee occupying a position in the classified service.


A threat, however communicated,

  1. To commit an offense,
  2. To inflict bodily injury in the future on the person threatened or another,
  3. To accuse a person of any offense,
  4. To expose a person to hatred, contempt, or ridicule,
  5. To harm the credit or business repute of any person, or
  6. To take or withhold action as a public servant or to cause a public servant to take or withhold action.

Command Authority

Authority necessary to operate the HCSO and to ensure the work of the agency is handled in a professional manner. Command authority shall not be confused with police authority derived from the law enforcement commission.

Command Staff

The Sheriff’s command staff shall be composed of:

Chief Deputy

Assistant Chief

Reserve Chief



Commissioning as a peace officer with the HCSO is not a right. The commissioning of peace officers is solely at the discretion of the Sheriff.

County Jailer’s License

Awarded by TCOLE to a person who has successfully completed the TCOLE-approved county corrections course.

Custodial Interrogation

Questioning initiated by law enforcement officers after a person has been taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his or her freedom in any significant way. Custodial interrogation requires the defendant to be advised of his or her constitutional rights.


Care or control exercised by a person or authority over something or someone. The care and control of a thing or person does not necessarily mean actual physical detention in jail or prison but rather is synonymous with restraint of liberty. Custody can occur without the formality of arrest.


A person who makes a statement.


Harris County Sheriff’s Office.


(1) All uniformed personnel, regardless of rank but excluding the Sheriff and all detention officer positions, who are qualified under the regulations of the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE) for appointment as a peace officer by the Sheriff. Prior to assuming sworn status, all deputies must affirm by oath that they will uphold the Constitution of the United States of America and laws of the State of Texas. (2) The entry-level rank within the HCSO for uniformed personnel who are certified as peace officers. Examples of other such ranks within the HCSO are those of sergeant, lieutenant, and captain.


To hold or keep in custody or possession; to restrain from proceeding.

Detention Officer

All uniformed personnel appointed by the Sheriff and assigned to carry out specific responsibilities within the Criminal Justice Command and who are qualified under TCOLE regulations to be licensed as a county jailer. As defined by state law, a detention officer is not a peace officer.

Disciplinary Action

Any action taken against an employee by the HCSO due to improper conduct by the employee that will result in termination, suspension, demotion, reduction in rank, or refusal to rehire at the end of a contractual period.

Disciplinary Probation

A probationary period to accompany certain disciplinary actions taken by the HCSO.

Emergency Driving

Should not be confused with pursuit driving, but relates to the effort of a law enforcement vehicle to proceed to an emergency scene at a speed greater than is normally driven.

Emergency Management Director

Harris County Judge.


(1) Any person employed by the HCSO, whether classified as deputies, detention officers, or civilian personnel. (2) A person legally occupying a position in the HCSO. The term “employee” is synonymous with the term “personnel.”

Evidentiary Property

Property or items seized as a result of an investigation, including vehicles held for processing.

Exclusive Service

The HCSO is entitled to the exclusive service of its employees. Personnel may not work (either directly or indirectly) for other criminal justice agencies other than in an approved extra job capacity. Within this context, “work” means to provide a service, paid or voluntary, as a regular or reserve deputy or detention officer.

Exigent Circumstances

A set of facts, unforeseen occurrences, or combination of circumstances which call for immediate action that allow a peace officer to act without obtaining a warrant in order to protect a person from injury, arrest a fleeing felon, or prevent the destruction of evidence. Exigent circumstances may exist when there is a possibility:

  1. That a wanted suspect may escape,
  2. Of bodily injury to any person,
  3. That important evidence will be lost or destroyed, and / or
  4. Of serious damage to property, real or personal.

Factual Witness

A witness whose testimony concerns events that occurred which are within the witness’ personal knowledge.

Fresh Pursuit

Pursuit of an offender, without reasonable delay, but not necessarily instant or immediate pursuit, in order to effect apprehension and arrest for the commission of an offense.


A search that is generally limited to the detection and / or recovery of weapons or instruments of injury and is limited in scope to feeling, seeing, touching, or making minor intrusions into clothing, containers, or areas within a person’s immediate control.


(1) The person who, under court order, is the guardian of the person of the child. (2) The public or private agency with whom the child has been placed by the court.

Harris County Emergency Management Plan (Harris County Basic Plan)

An all-inclusive emergency action plan adopted by Harris County for the management and control of disasters.


A statement, other than one made by the declarant while testifying at the trial or hearing, offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted.

Improper or Unprofessional Conduct

Any act or omission of an employee which violates a federal, state, county, or municipal statute, regulation, or ordinance, or which violates a court order, or which violates any of the policies, procedures, or rules of the HCSO, including, but not limited to, the department policies, any bureau procedural manual, and any applicable HCSO or bureau memorandum. Improper conduct shall be grounds for disciplinary action. Just cause shall be determined to be satisfied when one or more of the listed reasons have been adequately documented by incident, evaluation reports, or other supporting data.

In-Custody Property

Personal property obtained of a prisoner prior to being booked into the Harris County jail system.


A written list or catalog of property.

Lateral Employment

Peace officers with prior experience and training, upon successful completion of the application process and an abbreviated training program, may be assigned to any division that requires the job description and duties of a deputy.

Lawful Order

Any order issued in connection with the performance of any duty prescribed by law, by policy or rule of the HCSO, or for the preservation of order, efficiency, and proper discipline.

Legal Action

Any criminal or civil proceedings.

Lost, Abandoned, or Found Property

Property obtained by a deputy that is not considered in-custody or evidentiary property or items.

Management Staff

Bureau management staff shall be composed of the: bureau major and division captains.

Multi-Year Plan

Long-term plan for HCSO growth and activities covering successive years beyond the current budget year.

News Incidents

Activities of the HCSO in response to public events. News incidents, as represented herein, do not mean or include discussions of the internal policies of the HCSO, personal or political testimonials, or personal or private opinions covering policy or procedures of the HCSO.

News Media

Properly identified representatives of local, national, and international news organizations.

Open View Doctrine

A legal concept that allows a peace officer to develop probable cause by “seeing” an object that he is not entitled to seize even though he may lawfully be in the place that he observes the object, such as when a peace officer lawfully standing on a sidewalk observes a marijuana plant growing inside a house.


An instruction or directive, either written or oral, from any supervisor or acting authority.


The mother, the father, whether or not the child is legitimate, or an adoptive parent, but does not include a parent whose parental rights have been terminated.

Peace Officer’s Commission

A peace officer’s commission (as it applies to the HCSO) is the title of Deputy Sheriff which is bestowed after a person who holds a TCOLE basic peace officer license takes the oath of office. This recognition of peace officer status is given in the form of a badge and identification which thereby enable a person to function as a peace officer of the State of Texas.

Peace Officer’s License

A basic peace officer license may only be granted by TCOLE, the state agency authorized with that power. A license is granted to any person who successfully completes the basic peace officer curriculum as required by TCOLE.

Performance of Service Rating

The evaluation by an employee’s supervisor of the manner in which the employee’s service was rendered.

Plain View Doctrine

The rule of law that allows a peace officer to seize items without a warrant when the peace officer knows them to be contraband or evidence as long as the items were in “plain view,” the peace officer was lawfully in the place from which the items were viewed, and the peace officer can make the seizure from the area in which he is located.

Primary Unit

(1) In Patrol procedures: The initial dispatched unit or a unit that subsequently takes control. (2) In vehicle pursuits, the initial pursuing law enforcement vehicle.

Probable Cause

Facts and / or circumstances based on reliable information or personal knowledge that would lead a reasonable person to conclude that a crime has been or is about to be committed, that the suspect probably committed the crime, or that evidence of the crime is at a specific location.

Probationary Employee

An employee who has not completed a probationary period after appointment in a classified position.

Probationary Period

Length of time during which an employee is expected to demonstrate his or her complete fitness for his or her assignment. An employee may be placed on a probationary period after his original appointment, after transfer, after promotion, and / or for disciplinary reasons.

Professional Witness Fees

Any compensation received by employees from any source other than Harris County for testimony given in any legal action.

Public Information Officer (PIO)

As directed by the Sheriff, the public information officer is charged with the responsibility of regulating the HCSO’s public information function.

Public Records / Public Information

Except as specifically restricted herein, and / or by state or federal law, traffic crashes, miscellaneous incidents, arrests, or other department criminal incident information of routine nature are considered in the public domain, and such information shall be made available, upon request, to news media representatives.

Pursuit Driving

The pursuit and apprehension of a violator or felony suspect in a moving motor vehicle. Pursuit driving should be considered as hazardous driving as it requires the pursuit of all types of drivers under varied climatic and road surface conditions. Pursuit driving should always be governed by common sense and concern for crashes. Self-preservation and consideration of the safety of innocent persons is a necessary element in any pursuit situation.


A supervisory employee completing the evaluation of an employee under his or her supervision.

Reasonable Belief

“Reasonable belief” or “probable cause” to make an arrest without a warrant exists when facts and circumstances within the arresting officer’s knowledge, and of which he or she had reasonably trustworthy information, are sufficient in themselves to justify a person of average caution in belief that a felony has been or is being committed.

Reasonable Suspicion

A set of explainable facts and circumstances which lead a peace officer, in the light of his experience, to conclude that a person possibly is involved in past, present, or future criminal activity. Reasonable suspicion is the basis of temporary detention in making a “Terry Stop.”


A person who reports an offense or incident to an employee of the HCSO.

Res Gestae Statement

A spontaneous declaration made by a person immediately after an event and before the mind has an opportunity to conjure a falsehood. It represents an exception to the hearsay rule.

Reserve Deputy Sheriff

A person certified as a law enforcement officer recognized and licensed by TCOLE and has been appointed to the Reserve Command by the Sheriff.


A supervisory employee who reviews and signs each evaluation given to an employee by a rater.


Consists of looking for and / or seeking out that which is otherwise concealed from view. Merely looking at that which is open to view is not a search.

Search Warrant

An order, in writing, issued in the name of the State of Texas, signed by a magistrate, directed to a peace officer, commanding him or her to search for personal property, persons, or items.

Secondary Unit

A back-up law enforcement vehicle to the primary unit.


The act of taking possession of property. The term implies a taking or removal of something from the possession, actual or constructive, of another person or persons.


All the time of continuous, full-time service from the date of hire with the HCSO and the effective date of attainment of a higher grade with the agency. Service with other agencies or other Harris County departments does not count towards seniority. Seniority and grade are not lost due to change to the next higher grade. HCSO seniority shall not be confused with the seniority as defined in Harris County Personnel Regulations under the definition of Service, I, 1.03, 1.05, 1.06, or Section V, Longevity. HCSO seniority will not conflict with the Civil Service definition of seniority.

Sexual Harassment

Any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favors, and / or any verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature which creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment or which may be done in advancement of employment decisions affecting the person being harassed.

Special Events

Events that have been recognized and approved by the Sheriff.


An oral or written verbal expression or nonverbal conduct of a person (sign language) if it is intended by the person as a substitute for verbal expression.


A deputy with a rank of sergeant or above or a civilian employee with appropriate assigned duties.

Supervisory Staff

Division supervisory staff shall be composed of division lieutenants and division sergeants.


Texas Commission on Law Enforcement.

Unity of Command

Each person in the HCSO is accountable to only one immediate supervisor.

Unlawful Order

An order that violates federal, state, or local statutes. The order may also violate department policies without proper authority.


The hours of duty set by the respective bureau commander or in accordance with staffing needs.


This policy has been revised on the below listed dates:

April 21, 2009

October 6, 2015

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