303 – Conduct Prohibited

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Purpose

This policy provides directives as to the types of conduct prohibited for employees of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO).

Policy

Employees are expected to merit and maintain the public’s trust. To that end, it is the policy of the HCSO to uphold a high level of character and conduct. Any act or omission contrary to good order must generally be the subject of disciplinary action. As not every single scenario can be accounted for, this policy provides a list of the typical scenarios which may be encountered.

Conduct Prohibited

Employees are prohibited from the following acts or omissions: [CALEA Standard 26.1.1]

Acceptance of Bribes

Accepting a bribe, engaging in extortion, or otherwise unlawfully obtaining money or property is prohibited.

Criticism of Official Acts

HCSO employees must treat their coworkers, and employees of any other government agency, with respect. Employees will not publicly criticize any official act of any employee of this agency, or any other agency, of city, county, state, or federal government.

Disorderly Conduct

Being intoxicated or disorderly in a public place is prohibited, both on and off-duty.

Emergency Equipment on Privately-Owned Vehicles

Employees must not activate emergency equipment (e.g., a light bar or siren) on a private vehicle unless certified as a volunteer firefighter, or member of a certified emergency medical service, and responding to a fire alarm or medical emergency. (This section does not apply to those exceptions specified in the Department Manual.)

Fraternization and Socialization Prohibited

A person’s right to associate is normally subject to little or no restriction. However, the need to maintain security within the HCSO takes precedence and authorizes the agency to impose restrictions upon its employees regarding those with whom they wish to associate.

Employees are cautioned that their relationships with others will be subject to close scrutiny, and a violation of any of the following may result in disciplinary action:

  • Associating with a person that is known to have a criminal history, or is actively engaged in criminal activity, is prohibited when it is outside of the scope of official duties.

NOTE: If such a person is a member of an employee’s family, the employee must notify his or her Bureau Commander.

  • Knowingly fraternizing with relatives, spouses, or friends of any person in HCSO custody is prohibited.
  • Fraternizing, accepting services from, or doing favors for any person in HCSO custody, or their friends or relatives, is prohibited.
  • Employees who perform duties that require contact with a relative who is in HCSO custody must immediately report the circumstances to their supervisor. The supervisor will document the circumstances, and will immediately inform the Division Commander in writing.
  • Employees must not provide or assist in providing, directly or indirectly, a person in HCSO custody with contraband or anything of value.

General Behavior

Employees must not act, privately or in an official capacity, in a manner that would bring discredit upon themselves or the HCSO.

Indebtedness

Employees must pay their just debts. They must not contract any debts or liabilities they are unwilling, or knowingly unable, to pay. Neither can they refuse to promptly pay any indebtedness, claims, judgments, and satisfy executions that may be held or issued against them.

Employees must not use their position with the HCSO to avoid the payment of any debt, liability, claim, or judgment that has been lawfully held against them.

Representation of Supervisors

Employees must not cause any person or supervisor to intervene, or make representation on their behalf, in connection with their position in the HCSO.

Solicitation of Free Admissions, Favored Treatment, Services, or Merchandise

Employees must not use their position with the HCSO to solicit or obtain free admission to venues, sporting events, or places of amusement. Employees must not solicit or obtain any favored treatment, service, merchandise, or any other thing of value that would not ordinarily be available or provided to a private individual.

Threatening, Abusive, Vulgar, or Insulting Language

Employees must not use threatening, abusive, vulgar, or insulting language, or behave in an arrogant manner toward any other HCSO employee, the public, or detainees in HCSO custody.

Inaccurate Communications

Negligent communications that an employee should know contains incorrect information are prohibited.

Intentionally Making a False Statement

Employees must not knowingly make false or inaccurate statements to supervisors regarding their duties, or when submitting payroll or attendance records.

Intentionally Making a False Official Statement

Employees must not knowingly provide false information in an official document, report, or investigation. It is prohibited to knowingly record false or inaccurate information as though it were true or accurate.

Incurring Indebtedness Against the Sheriff or Harris County

Employees must not incur, or cause to be incurred, any financial obligation or debt against the Sheriff or Harris County except with the consent and approval of competent authority.

Interference with Criminal Justice System

It is prohibited to directly or indirectly make a compromise or settlement on behalf of any person for the purpose of aiding such person in escaping the penalty of the law, or otherwise using influence to affect the outcome of a judicial proceeding.

Employees must not use influence to obtain the continuance of any judicial hearing on account of friendship with the defendant or otherwise improperly interfere with the operations of the courts.

Nothing in this section may be construed as prohibiting an employee from cooperating with the prosecuting attorney for purposes of amending or modifying an existing charge or other action in any case where the employee is the arresting deputy or a complainant.

Recommendation of Lawyers or Bail Bondsmen

Employees must not recommend or suggest to anyone that a particular person, firm, or corporation be employed as an attorney, legal counsel, or bail bondsman when acting in an official capacity.

Removal of Records

Removing any official record from the HCSO’s premises is prohibited, except as directed by a supervisor, required by law, or a valid court order. If possible, a true and accurate copy of such record should be provided in lieu of the original.

Sleeping on Duty

Sleeping while on-duty is prohibited.

Solicitation or Acceptance of Rewards, Loans, or Gifts

Employees must not solicit or accept a reward, gratuity, gift, loan, or anything of value from:

  1. Any person subject to arrest or complaint,
  2. Any person in custody,
  3. Any person subsequent to discharge from custody, or
  4. Any relative or friend of such person.

Soliciting Influence

Employees must not solicit any other employee, including their supervisors, to intercede or use influence on their behalf in connection with any HCSO matter, including investigations.

However, nothing in this section may be construed as prohibiting an employee from being represented by another employee or supervisor in the course of an appeal procedure adopted by the Sheriff’s Civil Service Commission.

Use of Official Correspondence

Employees must not engage in official HCSO correspondence, or use HCSO stationery, without authorization.

Use of Official HCSO Emblems and Logo

Employees must not use HCSO emblems (i.e., badge and patch) or logo without proper authorization.

Tampering with Evidence

Employees must not fabricate, withhold, or destroy evidence of any kind except as a part of their official duties in compliance with policy or law.

Conflict of Interest – Multiple Commissions

Employees must not be commissioned by another law enforcement agency as a regular or reserve officer except as required by HCSO assignment (e.g., state and federal task force).

Release of Confidential Information

Employees must treat information collected and maintained by the HCSO, as well as information regarding other employees, as confidential. They must not disseminate such information to anyone except those for whom it is intended, as directed by their supervisors, or as required by law.

The contents of any criminal record file in the HCSO must not be disclosed or divulged except to persons authorized by agency order, state and federal statutes, or valid court order. [CALEA Standard 82.1.1]

Violation of Laws

Employees must not be charged, indicted, or willfully violate any federal statute, state law, or local ordinance except minor traffic offenses.

If an employee is arrested for any criminal offense, they must advise the arresting officer that they are an employee of the HCSO. They must then immediately notify their supervisor.

Driving While Intoxicated

If an employee is arrested for driving while intoxicated, they must immediately notify the arresting officer that they are an employee of the HCSO, and then immediately notify their supervisor or designated bureau representative. Employees arrested for DWI will immediately be relieved of duty. If the employee’s blood alcohol content is found to be over the legal limit, they will be terminated.

Phone Usage

While operating motor vehicles, phones will not be used to read or enter data. This applies when driving a county-owned vehicle, or any vehicle while on county time.

Talking on a phone is discouraged while on-duty, unless necessary to receive direction in support of an HCSO mission.

Additional Acts of Improper Conduct

  1. Incompetence
  2. Inefficiency
  3. Insubordination:
    • It is prohibited to willfully disobey any order lawfully issued by supervisory personnel or acting authority, or be disrespectful, mutinous, insolent, or direct abusive language toward any supervisory personnel or acting authority.
    • Flouting the authority of any supervisory personnel or acting authority, by obvious disrespect or disputing orders, will likewise be deemed insubordination.
    • An order is defined as any request, instruction, or command either implied or directed towards a subordinate by any supervisor or acting authority employed by the HCSO.
  4. Intoxication while on duty
  5. Neglect of duty
  6. Negligent or willful misuse, loss, or damage of supplies, equipment, or public property
  7. Fraud in securing appointment
  8. Dishonesty
  9. Drug use or addiction to illegal drugs or substances
  10. Conviction of a misdemeanor or felony offense, excluding Class C Misdemeanors defined by the Texas Transportation Code
  11. Verbal abuse of a detainee
  12. Physical abuse of a detainee
  13. Failure to meet requirements for licensure by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement
  14. Failure to achieve and maintain weapons proficiency as required by state law and the Department Manual
  15. Willful violation of any of the rules set forth in the Department Manual or any applicable written directive of a bureau or division

Sanctions

Employees may be subject to reprimand, suspension, reduction in rank, or dismissal from the HCSO for violation of the Department Manual.

An employee may be reassigned or relieved of duty (with or without pay) by the Sheriff, or his or her designee, for any serious allegation of misconduct, criminal conduct, or pending the outcome of criminal prosecution.

If the employee is relieved without pay, he or she may utilize his or her accumulated compensatory time and vacation time solely at his or her discretion.

Any employee relieved of duty for serious allegations of misconduct may be terminated, disciplined, or authorized to return to duty regardless of any unused compensatory or vacation time.

Revision

This policy has been revised on the below listed dates:

April 21, 2009

March 4, 2014

November 13, 2014

July 1, 2015

June 29, 2021

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