Ever Heard of CLEAT?UT Tower
Ever heard of CLEAT? In 1966, neither had Ramiro Martinez nor Houston McCoy – because it didn’t exist.
Oftentimes when we hear the expression, “That’s a thing of the past,” the connotation attached to the “thing” in question is not particularly positive.
But I’d wager that when it comes to CLEAT – a.k.a. Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, the state’s largest police union, – former Austin Police Officers Martinez and McCoy, who is now deceased, would have appreciated being able to make the reference if for nothing more than their peace of mind as they went about their dangerous daily duties.
Unfortunately for Martinez and McCoy –two officers who stormed the UT Texas tower and put an end to sniper Charles Whitman’s Aug. 1, 1966, killing spree – CLEAT was not formed until the mid-1970s.
By way of their actions on the tower, shooting at and taking down Whitman, Martinez and McCoy were deemed heroes, and rightly so. But, as we all know, sometimes heroic actions can be turned sideways, facts can be distorted, and officers involved in fatal shootings – even when their actions are appropriate – can find themselves in a legal mess with no means to wade their way out.
In those murky situations, at least for Texas officers, it can be CLEAT to the rescue. According to its website (www.cleat.org), the organization’s mission is to “ensure that our members’ rights and interests are protected by providing exceptional legal representation, legislative and political power, assistance in labor negotiations, and leadership or association development.”
Imagine how Martinez or McCoy might have taken advantage of such services had they needed them, particularly to protect themselves owing to their involvement in such a high-profile, highly charged, and intense situation. Imagine if someone, a journalist perhaps, questioned the officers about why they shot the sniper on site rather than giving him a chance to surrender. Would such a question have cast a doubt on the good work Martinez and McCoy did that day? The reality is, these types of scenarios are practically tailor-made for lawsuits, something both men may have been vulnerable to considering the gravity of what happened that tragic day. Because as some officers will tell you, it’s not just a matter of if you’ll be sued, but when.