Heights - River Oaks - Montrose | Nov. 2020

Protests and

problem.” In an Oct. 5 memo, HPOU Vice Presi- dent Doug Griffithwrote that evenwith the rules, officers could still be fired by the chief with the mayor’s approval. He and other union representatives defended the four police officers who were fired in September after shoot- ing Houston resident Nicolas Chavez 21 times while he was experiencing a mental health crisis and pulled away an officer’s stun gun. “Iusedtocome toworkbelieving that if we followed policy and acted within our training, we would be backed and supported by our chief,” Griffith wrote in the memo. “Lately, that has not been the case.” While thefiringswere an incidenceof the chief and mayor breaking from the union to enforce stricter accountability, they did not override the need for more systemic changes, Hudson said. “There are incidents where people are let go as they should be,” he said. “But we need to look at the system as a whole. Even in the Nicolas Chavez case, the body camera video was held from the public for four months.” ‘Heartfelt conversations’ Mayors negotiate labor contracts with union presidents under a process known in Houston and other large Texas cities as “meet and confer.” The agreement, which is renego- tiated every three years in Houston, establishes pay rates and health and retirement benefits as well as disci- plinary protocols. The relationship between police and mayors, however, often begins before any elected offi- cial takes office. Unions endorse can- didates, donate to campaigns, and can mobilize large numbers of volunteers and voters. Since 2015, the HPOU has donated over $300,000 to local campaigns, according to campaign finance filings. “Police associations wield incredi- ble political power,” said Chris Harris, the director of criminal justice reform at the nonprofit Texas Appleseed. “It’s tough to challenge them in any of these avenues, but that said, I think it’s worth trying at every one.” Although Turner received the


deadline for reform in Houston is on the horizon. By Dec. 31, the three-year labor contract between the Houston Police Officers’ Union and Turner is set to be renewed. Both the mayor’s police reform task force and the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas released reports in recent months that include propos- als to alter two key HPOU contract provisions. One is the 48-hour rule allowing officers to review evidence against them in a misconduct allega- tion before making a statement, and the other is the 180-day rule prevent- ing the Houston Police Department from disciplining officers involved in misconduct that occurred more than six months prior. Both reports argue removing or revising the provisions will lead to better accountability, but some union


Following calls for reform reaching new heights in May, Houston officials have increased police resources while changing some policies.


May 25

Houstonian George Floyd’s killing by Minneapolis police officers sparks national outcry.

representatives say they are crucial worker protections. What’s at stake The 48-hour and the 180- day rules are not unique to Houston, and state law allows any police union to adopt them. Advocates argue they give officers an advan- tage in misconduct allega- tions and undermine trust. “Meaningful accountabil- ity and oversight of police means we need fair disci- plinary processes in place that doesn’t give officers special treatment,” said Nick Hudson, a criminal justice

Budget details The Houston Police Department budget is primarily allocated to payroll and benefits established within the Houston Police Officers Union contract. 90%

June 3

June 10

60,000 protesters march through downtown Houston.

Houston City Council votes to approve a budget including a $20 million increase in funding for HPD and an amendment allocating $100,000 for a public police misconduct web database.

of budget is spent on payroll supplies/ equipment/ other 10%

Total budget: $965M

June 11 Mayor Sylvester Turner signs an executive order banning chokeholds and no-knock raids, except when authorized by the chief of police. It turns HPD policy into a city ordinance.

policy analyst with the ACLU of Texas. Kevin Lawrence, the executive director of statewide police union Texas Municipal Police Association, said the 48-hour rule is part of a bal- ancing act. If officers are required to submit a statement following an alle- gation but civilians have the right to remain silent, the 48-hour rule levels the playing field, he said. “If you’re a civilian, your attorney is going to request the same informa- tion,” he said. HPOU Executive Director Ray Hunt added that HPD can ask for permission from the state attorney general to dis- cipline an officer after 180 days. “It has nothing to do with us trying to say ‘hey, we want you to hurry up so you don’t find the evidence,’” he said. “If you can’t find it in six months, you’ve got a

June 24

Sept. 10

Turner announces a 45-person police reform task force.

Four officers are fired for Nicolas Chavez’s death during a mental health crisis.

Sept. 24 Council Member Edward Pollard launches the District J patrol, a community policing initiative putting officers in golf cart-style vehicles in southwest Houston.

Oct. 23 City establishes a “safe harbor court” to help low-income residents resolve fees on low-level municipal citations.

Sept. 29

Oct. 19

Houston joins Harris County’s cite-and-release program diverting some low-level offenders away from jail.

Turner allocates $4.2 million in federal coronavirus relief to cover HPD overtime.




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