Mayor Annise Parker today unveiled a sweeping package of new initiatives aimed at restoring public trust in the Houston Police Department. The mayor is putting in place two new independent oversight panels, creating an ombudsman to provide confidential assistance to citizens alleging police misconduct and retaining the services of an independent organization to conduct an investigation into the culture at the Houston Police Department.
“This plan will allow for increased public input on matters of public safety,” said Mayor Parker. “It will also help address the community concerns raised in the wake of the release of the videotaped beating of Chad Holley. As both the leader of this city and the mother of three children, I cannot condone the physical abuse of a child or any citizen of this city. The vast majority of our men and women in blue protect and serve in an exemplary manner. But, if a culture exists at HPD that contributes to the behavior displayed in that video, we will root it out and put in place best practices that will identify and prevent police misconduct.”
The new Independent Police Oversight Board (IPOB) will replace the existing Citizens’ Review Committee. The new panel will consist of 20 members appointed by the mayor and will reflect the demographics and geographic diversity of the city. Its members will consist of experts in criminal justice, including retired judges and prosecutors, civil rights attorneys and academic experts or scholars. The IPOB will have unfettered access to all records and police department data and the full cooperation of HPD. It will review all internal affairs investigations involving allegations of excessive force or the discharge of firearms and other major incidents. It will also have authority to review all disciplinary cases and make its own recommendations to the chief of police regarding discipline. A faculty member from the Criminal Justice Department at the University of Houston – Downtown will provide independent advice and counsel to the panel.
IPOB will also review and make recommendations to the police chief and mayor regarding the hiring of new police officers, training on proper treatment of citizens, evaluation of officer conduct and community concerns relating to police misconduct. It will produce regular reports to inform the public of its findings.
In addition to the IPOB, the existing Police Advisory Committee will be re-named the Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC). The PSAC will hold monthly meetings in various locations throughout the city to obtain citizen input, meet quarterly with the police and fire chiefs and the local Office of Homeland Security to discuss issues affecting public safety and periodically meet with City Council’s public safety committee. Its members will be representative of all City Council districts as well as civil rights organizations and public policy organizations.
The City’s Office of Inspector General and members of that office, all of whom are not employed by HPD, will serve as confidential ombudsmen to assist citizens in filing of complaints of misconduct against police officers.
Mayor Parker is also supporting several legislative proposals that, if enacted, will bolster the reforms she unveiled today.
The mayor’s plan will be implemented by mayoral executive order.