303 – Conduct Prohibited

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Policy

Acts or Omissions Contrary to Good Order

No arbitrary rules of conduct can be established that will encompass all cases arising in the general discharge of law enforcement duties or in the employee’s personal activities. Therefore, any act or omission contrary to good order and discipline shall be the subject of disciplinary action.

Violation of Rules and Regulations

Each Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) employee shall be subject to reprimand, suspension, reduction in rank, and / or dismissal from the HCSO and from service according to the nature of the offense, for violation of the rules and regulations and the code sections appearing in the department policies, or for any of the other HCSO rules, regulations, general orders, or special orders.

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, allegation of 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 / or vacation time solely at his or her discretion.

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

The following acts or omissions are expressly prohibited conduct for HCSO employees: [CALEA Standard 26.1.1]

Acceptance of Bribes

No employee shall accept a bribe or engage in any act of extortion or other unlawful means of obtaining money or property.

Criticism of the HCSO or its Employees

An employee shall not communicate information of a sensitive nature concerning the HCSO or its employees to any person or agency unless the employee first submits a complete written report of the information to be provided and receives authorization from his or her bureau commander.

Criticism of Official Acts

Employees shall treat other HCSO employees, or employees of any other governmental agency, civilly and with respect. An employee shall not publicly criticize any official act of any employee of this or any other department of city, county, state, or federal government.

Disorderly Conduct

No HCSO employee shall become intoxicated or disorderly in a public place at any time.

Emergency Equipment on Privately-Owned Vehicles

No employee shall use or activate emergency equipment on his or her privately-owned vehicle (e.g., light bar or siren) unless the employee is a certified volunteer firefighter or member of a certified emergency medical service responding to a fire alarm or medical emergency. (This section does not apply to approved HCSO motorcycle deputies or portable emergency or safety lights mounted on a vehicle while working a construction site or roadway).

Fraternization and Socialization Prohibited

A person’s right to associate is one that is normally subject to little or no restriction. However, the need to ensure and 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. Therefore, employees are cautioned that their relationships with others will be continually subjected to close scrutiny and that a violation by an employee of any of the following may subject the employee to disciplinary action:

No employee shall socialize or associate with a person who has a known criminal history or who is known to have been or who is engaged in criminal activity. In the event that such person is a member of the employee’s family, the employee shall notify his or her bureau commander who may, in his or her discretion, permit the association if it will not adversely affect HCSO security.

Employees shall not knowingly fraternize nor associate socially with relatives, spouses, or friends of any person in HCSO custody.

Employees shall not fraternize, engage the services of, accept services from, nor do favors for any person in HCSO custody.

Employees shall not knowingly fraternize with, engage the services of, accept services from, nor do favors for the relatives or friends of any person in HCSO custody.

Employees who perform duties that require contact with a family member or relative who is in HCSO custody shall immediately report the circumstances to their supervisor. The supervisor shall document the circumstances and shall immediately inform the division commander in writing.

No employee shall provide, either directly or indirectly, or assist either directly or indirectly in providing, a person in HCSO custody with contraband or anything of value.

General Behavior

No employee shall act or behave privately or in any official capacity in such a manner as to bring discredit upon him- or herself or the HCSO.

Indebtedness

HCSO employees shall pay their just debts. They shall not sell or assign their salaries or incomes or contract any debts or liabilities that they are unable or unwilling to pay. Neither shall they refuse to pay promptly all indebtedness, claims, and judgments and satisfy all executions that may be held or issued against them. An employee shall not use position with the HCSO to avoid the payment of any debt, liability, claim, or judgment that has been lawfully held against him or her.

Neighborhood Disputes

Employees shall not intentionally become involved in neighborhood quarrels or disputes, either on duty or off duty.

Obligation to Family

An employee shall be required to support dependents properly.

Representation of Supervisors

An employee shall not cause any person or supervisor to intervene or to make representation on his or her behalf in connection with his or her position in the HCSO.

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

Employees shall not use their position with the HCSO to solicit or obtain free admissions to places of amusement, sporting events, etc. Employees shall not solicit or obtain any favored treatment, service, merchandise, or any other thing of value that would not ordinarily be accorded or available to a private citizen.

Threatening, Abusive, Vulgar, or Insulting Language

An employee shall not use threatening, abusive, vulgar, or insulting language or behave in an arrogant manner toward any other HCSO member, the public, or prisoners in HCSO custody.

Untruthfulness

HCSO employees shall not make false statements to supervisors when questioned, interviewed, or in submitting reports, payroll records, or affidavits.

False Information in Records

No employee shall knowingly or willingly make an official report based on false information or knowingly or willingly enter or cause to be entered in any HCSO record or report any inaccurate, false, or improper information.

Incurring Indebtedness Against the Sheriff or Harris County

No employee shall incur or cause to be incurred any financial obligation or debt against the Sheriff or Harris County except with the knowledge, consent, and approval of competent authority.

Interference with Criminal Justice System

No employee shall, directly or indirectly, make or negotiate any compromise or settlement on behalf of any person for the purpose of aiding such person in escaping the penalty of the law or otherwise improperly use influence to affect the outcome of a judicial proceeding. No employee shall 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 shall 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 officer or a complainant.

Loitering

Deputies shall not loiter in cafés, drive-ins, service stations, or other public places while on duty.

Recommendation of Lawyers or Bail Bondsmen

No employee shall recommend or suggest to anyone that a particular person, firm, or corporation be employed as an attorney, legal counsel, or bail bondsman. However, nothing in this section shall be construed as prohibiting an employee, acting in an individual capacity, from recommending or suggesting legal counsel in connection with a private non-departmental matter.

Removal of Records

No employee shall remove from the physical environs of the HCSO any official record except as directed by a supervisor or as required by law or valid court order. If possible, a true and accurate copy of such record should be provided in lieu of the original.

Sleeping on Duty

No employee is permitted to sleep while on duty.

Solicitation or Acceptance of Rewards, Loans, or Gifts

No employee shall solicit or accept any reward or gratuity either for the performance of duty or for the anticipated performance of duty. No employee shall solicit or accept a reward, gratuity, gift, loan, or anything of value from any person subject to arrest or complaint, from any person in custody, from any person subsequent to discharge from custody, or from any relative or friend of such person.

Soliciting Influence

No employee shall solicit any other employee, including the employee’s supervisors, to intercede or to use influence on the employee’s behalf in connection with any HCSO matter, including any official investigation. However, nothing in this section shall be construed as prohibiting an employee from being represented by another employee or a supervisor in the course of an appeal procedure adopted by the Sheriff’s Civil Service Commission.

Use of Official Correspondence

No employee shall engage in official HCSO correspondence or use HCSO stationery without authorization.

Use of Official HCSO Emblems and Logo

No employee shall utilize the HCSO emblems (i.e., badge and patch) or logo without proper authorization.

Withholding Evidence

An employee shall not fabricate, withhold, or destroy evidence of any kind except as a part of his or her official duties in compliance with policy or law.

Conflict of Interest – Multiple Commissions

No employee, while in the employment of the HCSO, may 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 shall treat all information collected and maintained by the HCSO as confidential. They shall not disseminate such information to anyone except those for whom it is intended or as directed by their supervisors or as required by law. The contents of any criminal record file in the HCSO shall 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

No HCSO employee shall be charged with, indicted in, convicted of, or willfully violate any federal statute, state law, or local ordinance except minor traffic offenses.

Cellular Phone Usage

While operating motor vehicles, cell phones shall not be used either to read or to enter data. This applies to driving a county-owned vehicle or any vehicle while on county time. Cease the operation of the motor vehicle when engaging in communication via texting (reading or entering data), e-mailing (reading or entering data), or accessing a social media site (reading or entering data).

Talking on a cell phone is discouraged and is only justified when necessary to receive direction to or in support of a HCSO mission.

Additional Acts of Improper Conduct

  1. Absence without leave
  2. Incapacity due to mental or physical disability. (A medical examination may be required, and the Civil Service Commission shall in such instance approve the physician to make such examination).
  3. Incompetence
  4. Inefficiency
  5. Insubordination
    • No employee shall 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 by disputing orders, shall 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.
  6. Intoxication while on duty
  7. Neglect of duty
  8. Negligence or willful damage to, or misuse of, public property or waste of supplies or equipment
  9. Violation, or willful disregard, of any lawful regulation or order made and given by a HCSO supervisor
  10. Fraud in securing appointment
  11. Dishonesty
  12. Drug use or addiction to illegal drugs or substances
  13. Conviction of a misdemeanor or a felony
  14. Physical or verbal abuse of a person in custody
  15. Failure to meet requirements for licensure by the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement
  16. Failure to achieve and maintain weapons proficiency as required by state law and HCSO policy
  17. Willful violation of any of the rules set forth in the HCSO policies or any bureau or division written order or directive.

Revision

This policy has been revised on the below listed dates:

April 21, 2009

March 4, 2014

November 13, 2014

July 1, 2015

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