In his role as a frequent Court Appointed Special Advocates volunteer, Corpus Christi Police Commander John Houston is dedicated to helping the kids of the Coastal Bend who need it most.
By: Samantha Koepp-Stemplinger
In 1980, when John Houston first joined the Corpus Christi Police Department as a police officer, his goal was to work everywhere he could within the department and go up the ranks before he left. Fast-forward to 2015: He is now the police commander for Corpus Christi, overseeing 220 non-police employees in the administration department, which involves managing budgets, grant writing, buildings, fleet, building projects and grant compliance. He also works with the police foundation and the citizen’s police academy and serves as a liaison with organizations that work closely with the police department.
“It’s everything that makes the PD – supports the mission of the men and women in the field, “says Houston in regards to the administration department. “Here we have the ability to buy the people the equipment to do their job better. The key is looking at the trends in the nation, seeing where we are going and then doing what’s right for Corpus Christi.”
Community presence is highly regarded within the police department – officers being connected to their neighborhoods, knowing the people and being involved. “You don’t see the issues that the rest of the country is having, here in our city,” Houston says. “It’s a very different environment from city to city, but I look at Corpus Christi, and our people respect the police and we respect the citizens. We have a great relationship with them.”
Most police officers attend community meetings, are involved with nonprofit organizations and/or serve as team coaches or mentors. Houston has been giving community education presentations several times a year to Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) volunteers for 23 years – missing only one presentation.
Houston’s wife was a volunteer in the first CASA class, who had served as a volunteer for two-and-a-half years when she recruited him to share his community knowledge with volunteers to prepare them for what they may witness during their cases. During his presentations, Houston speaks about what is going on in the streets and explains how drug and alcohol use attribute to child abuse and neglect.
“It’s always great to run into a CASA volunteer, sometimes people whose class I taught 10 years ago, and they go, ‘You know, commander, that class you taught us when I had this case, and I went in there, and I saw exactly what you told us, and I was able to put it in the report, and we were able to do something good for the kid.’ I’ve seen so much of it; I am just so glad that people step up and stick around for a year or two or three and help as many kids as they can help.”
Houston has witnessed the cycle in families with a history of abuse, working with the first generation 35 years ago and throughout the years being involved with their children and now their grandchildren for the same situations. “Before CASA came along, the kids didn’t have a voice,” he says. “You’ve got to break the cycle, break that connection to give the kid a chance, so when CASA steps in with these kids, it does give them a future that they can see there is something different. As long as I am a cop, I will keep coming back to CASA. I support CASA 100 percent.”
Houston’s next presentation at CASA will be on Aug. 6 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the CASA office located on 2602 Prescott. The presentation is open to the public with an RSVP required to attend; email email@example.com to reserve a seat.
CASA of the Coastal Bend offers free monthly trainings for new volunteers, with the next training starting on Aug. 18 and the following training starting on Sept. 8. If you are interested in learning more about becoming a CASA or how you can support the organization, please visit www.casaofthecoastalbend.org or call Diana Booth, outreach director, at 361-884-2272.
Photos Courtesy of CASA of the Coastal Bend