The stalemate between Aransas County District Attorney (ACDA) Kristen Barnebey and the Rockport Police Department (RPD) is 225 days old today.
Aransas County commissioners have called a special meeting for 1 p.m. Thursday, March 29 to “Consider retention of Bruce Mills/Public Sector Solutions as consultant to assist Aransas County and the Aransas County District Attorney’s Office identify and resolve the issues between the RPD and the ACDA’s office.”
The stalemate became official 10 days before Hurricane Harvey made landfall when Barnebey issued a press release stating, in part, “As of today, August 15, 2017, the ACDA’s office will not accept any cases submitted by the RPD until an improvement plan is in place and we have their complete assurance that we will receive accurate case reports and all evidence in a timely and professional manner every single time.”
The issue was pushed to the backburner, at least publicly, during the first couple of months after Harvey made landfall.
The heart of the issue, according to Barnebey, is all evidence in a case must be turned over to a prosecutor pursuant to the Morton Act, a law which was approved after a man was falsely convicted of a crime because all evidence about the crime had not been released to the prosecutor, and then to defense attorneys. He was later released from prison after many years of incarceration.
Barnebey has issues with some personnel at the RPD she says are not adhering to Morton Act requirements.
Neither side it appears has budged from their original positions.
The City of Rockport ran an advertisement in the Saturday, March 24 edition of The Rockport Pilot, which stated, in part, “Since August 2017 the ACDA’s office has declined to accept any criminal cases from the RPD … Despite multiple attempts at formal and informal mediation (initiated by the RPD), the ACDA refuses to prosecute these criminals, creating an environment that may put citizens and visitors at greater risk.”
It was noted in the advertisement criminal activity in the city in the past six months included 26 arrests for illegal/controlled substance, four first offense DWIs arrests, three arrests each for DWI (2nd offense), DWI (felony offense), weapons, and weapons (felon in possession). There have also been five arrests for domestic violence and/or protective order violation, and eight arrests for theft or burglary.
The advertisement stated, “Further information can be obtained on each of these occurrences by clicking on the “Crime Reports” link on the Police Department page at www.CityofRockport.com.”
The advertisement noted the RPD is one of just 145 law enforcement agencies in Texas compliant with the Texas Police Chiefs Association Law Enforcement Agency Best Practices Recognition program.
The advertisement concluded with the statement, “(The) RPD is fully operational and continues to perform its duties to protect citizens and visitors to Rockport.”
If one has questions about this situation, he or she can call the RPD at (361) 790-1111 or the ACDA at (361) 790-0114.