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Law enforcement organization has 30-year history

Monday, May 19, 2008

Kathryn Howell

Thirty years ago, when a blackberry was a juicy treat picked on a lazy summer afternoon and ‘the net’ was a tool used to catch a fish, Phil Ryan, then a patrol sergeant with the Texas Highway Patrol, hit on an idea that would become the North Harris County Criminal Justice Association. Ryan, who went on to fame as the Texas Ranger who arrested serial killer Henry Lee Lucas, along with Barto Watson, a trooper with the Highway Patrol, took their idea – an organization of area law enforcement officers that would meet monthly for information sharing – to then Humble Mayor Dr. Haden McKay. “I remember Sgt. Phil Ryan, Barto Watson and Dr. McKay called and asked me to visit,“ said Harris County Precinct 4 Commissioner Jerry Eversole, then president of the Humble Chamber of Commerce. The three explained their idea to Eversole, who then pledged to get them 12 sponsors for a monthly breakfast meeting, one for each month of the year. “The way those guys worked, if they asked, it was pretty much going to happen,” said Eversole of the planned monthly meeting. “We had Precinct 4 constables, DPS, the Humble Police Department and the Houston Police Department all within a 2 to 3-mile range. All of these people could be, at times, working on the same cases as each other. It was a great opportunity for them to get together and shake hands,” Eversole explained. The first meeting was held at Northeast Medical Center Hospital in early 1978, according to Virginia Trepagnier Garza, a retired Sheriff’s deputy and the only woman to hold the office of president of the CJA. The first president, Phil Ryan, was elected and a bound book of by-laws and statement of purpose quickly followed. The book, now held by Betty Hogan, secretary of the CJA, lists early members Dan North and C.R. Davis as well as some of the original sponsors, Beasley Tire and First City Bank of Humble. Rodney Smith, the first civilian president according to Hogan, was instrumental in establishing the group’s Web site and newsletter. When told that the original book of members, complete with the by-laws and list of sponsors was still in existence, Eversole seemed surprised and delighted. The CJA has grown through the years, expanding its membership to include community residents as well as business members. Past meetings have featured speakers from diverse areas of law enforcement such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Texas Rangers and the Union Pacific Railroad police. Hogan pointed out that the CJA’s 30-year-old book lists the dues that members paid to join the organization. “Ten dollars a year. Can you believe that we just now raised the dues to $15? It’s been $10 a year until just recently,” laughed Hogan. All dues collected directly benefit scholarships for criminal justice majors from the area and the Special Olympics, said Hogan. “The CJA was a well designed idea that has served its purpose,” said Eversole. “Other groups have come and gone, but from the CJA’s inception, there was never a question about its meeting again.” Garza points out that the organization needs more sponsors. “This group functions on sponsors,“ said Garza. “We’ve had wonderful sponsors in the past, but some are having to sponsor the breakfasts too often.” The North Harris County Criminal Justice Association meets at Italiano’s in Humble the first Tuesday of every month at 7 a.m. For more information on the CJA or on becoming a member visit www.nhccja.com. Photo: The North Harris County Criminal Justice Association’s 30-year-old membership book.

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