The History of HPOU
The Houston Police Department has always been a leader in law enforcement in the United States. As Houston becomes an ever more complex and diverse city, the HPD continues to evolve to meet the needs of citizens it serves and protects.
Click the links below to learn more about how the Houston Police Department started and the many changes it went through to become the leader in law enforcement it is today.
In November of 2019, Mayor Sylvester Turner was elected to a second 4 year term as Mayor of the City of Houston. Mayor Turner began that second term in January, 2020 and kept Acevedo as the chief. Joe Gamaldi ran for a second term as President of the HPOU and easily sailed to victory. Gamaldi then took the Sgt’s exam and scored so high that he was immediately promoted to Sgt and forced to resign from the Presidency of the HPOU, but remained as the FOP National Vice President, speaking regularly on national news regarding police issues.
Defund the Police
Following the release of a video of a Minneapolis police officer holding down a suspect in 2020, a few very vocal activists began a defund the police movement. Many major cities bought into the untrue rhetoric and began catering to the few and defunding their police departments. One of the worst was Austin, Texas. After their defunding debacle, many officers left their department and crime skyrocketed. It did not take long until very few ever muttered the defund the police words again.
President Doug Griffith
Following the resignation of Gamaldi as President, the Board unanimously selected Vice President Doug Griffith as the new President of the HPOU in 2020. Griffith was a highly respected police officer from Southeast and quickly gained the support from the members as their new president. President Griffith ran for reelection to the presidency in November of 2020 and easily was reelected. President Griffith was a “street dog” and never backed down from a position that supported the hardworking men and women of the Houston Police Department. Griffith continued the unified relationship with the Afro American Police Officers League, keeping a unified voice for better benefits and working conditions for the members. President Griffith made major improvements to the HPOU buildings, all while continuing to save finances for any future unforeseen cases that may arise. Griffith also expanded the legal staff of the HPOU, continuing to make it second to none.
President Griffith was blessed with possibly the best executive team the HPOA/HPOU ever had. Griffith had Ken Nealy as 1st Vice President, Tim Whitaker as 2nd Vice President, Sgt Terry Seagler as 3rd Vice President, and Dan Levine as Secretary. This team made it clear that the rights of officers would be protected and pay and benefits would continue to increase.
Chief of Police Troy Finner
In 2021, Police Chief Art Acevedo saw greener pastures in Miami and resigned as Chief of the Houston Police Department. Mayor Turner made it clear that he was pleased with the talent in the Houston Police Department and conducted interviews for a new chief. Turner was impressed with both Executive Assistant Chief Troy Finner and Executive Assistant Chief Matt Slinkard. Mayor Turner finally settled on Chief Troy Finner, but made Matt Slinkard a new position of Executive Chief. The HPOU had great relationships with both men and supported the decisions of the Mayor.
Chief Finner was a product of the Houston Independent School District and had been with HPD for nearly 3 decades. Chief Finner quickly undid a new badge policy that had been instituted by Acevedo that was applauded by the troops.
2022 Meet and Confer Contract
In 2022, President Griffith assembled a team to negotiate a new contract as did Chief Troy Finner. Doug Griffith was the lead negotiator for a new contract. Along with substantial pay raises, Griffith was also able to secure more time off for supervisors. Those who followed police contract negotiations knew the contract was an incredible deal considering the defund the police movement that had sadly spread across many departments. Fortunately, that was not the case in Houston due to the incredible relationships that continued with Mayor Turner and City Council. After misinformation was spread by a few in the department, the contract only passed by 68% of the members, but provided great benefits for our members and their families through 2025.
Annise Parker/President Gary Blankinship
As this decade began, Gary Blankinship was finishing his first term as President of the Houston Police Officers’ Union. The citizens of Houston elected former City Controller Annise Parker as the new Mayor. The HPOU endorsed her opponent and had to quicky make amends with the new Mayor since the contract for officers was soon to expire. Fortunately, Mayor Parker forgave the HPOU for endorsing her opponent and entered into negotiations with a team that Blankinship assembled for a new contract. An extremely fair deal was worked out and presented to the members for a vote. That contract passed in 2011 by 90% of the members and again was approved unanimously by City Council.
Police Chief Charles McClelland
Mayor Parker tapped Charles McClelland as the new police chief in 2010. Chief McClelland was warmly welcomed since he was a product of the Houston Police Department and actually did police work during his career. He was not a camera hog and quietly did his job. McClelland had a good relationship with the HPOU since he had faced unfair discipline before becoming Chief for a botched mass arrest in West Houston. With the exception of very few cases, Chief McClelland was fair and left after 6 years with a great reputation. Leaders from the HPOU called on McClelland several times after he left for his wisdom.
President JJ Berry, First Black HPOU President
In 2011, HPOU President Gary Blankinship was a clear finalist for appointment by President Barack Obama to the U. S. Marshal for the Southern District. Prior to his upcoming appointment, Blankinship resigned from the presidency of the HPOU, leaving a vacancy in the presidency. The HPOU constitution required the board to select a new president to fulfill the term. HPOU’s 1st Vice President JJ Berry was nominated by the board and unanimously approved. He became the HPOU’s first black president. President Berry was a complete gentleman and a great statesman who was respected by all. For many years after he retired, he was called on and consulted on a variety of issues.
President Ray Hunt/Relationships
After the appointment of Blankinship to his Federal position and the retirement of JJ Berry, 2nd Vice President Ray Hunt was elected President of the HPOU and took office in 2012. Hunt continued the relationship with Mayor Parker and City Council and worked well with Chief McClelland. In 2016, Eric Fagan was elected as President of the Afro American Police Officers League. Fagan and Hunt quickly became very close friends and pledged to have a unified voice when it came to police officers’ rights. That relationship was beneficial to all officers. Hunt claims he was successful as President due to his relationship with Fagan and the assistance of two future Presidents, Doug Griffith and Joe Gamaldi.
The HPOU maintained a good relationship with Annise Parker during her terms as mayor in part because of her chief of staff, Waynette Chan. Chan was a former police officer and dear friend to all police. Prior to the end of Parker’s term limited time as mayor, Mayor Parker assembled a team to negotiate a new contract with the HPOU. That contract passed by 86% of the members and was unanimously approved by City Council.
Mayor Sylvester Turner
After two failed attempts at running for mayor, former State Representative Sylvester Turner decided to run for a 3rd time. This time, Turner, endorsed by the HPOU and the Firefighters, won the mayor’s race and became mayor in 2016. Turner was a great friend to police and fire while he served for over 2 decades in the legislature, so the endorsements were no surprise. Shortly after Turner was elected, Chief McClelland retired and Turner named Executive Assistant Chief Martha Montalvo as interim Chief of Police. She did very well in that role for nearly a year when she retired. And then came Art Acevedo from Austin.
2018 Meet and Confer
After 2 years in officer, Mayor Turner assembled a team to negotiate a new contract for police officers. This was the first contract where occasionally the Chief of Police, Art Acevedo, actually attended. After months of intense negotiations, the HPOU and the City of Houston presented a new contract to HPD members in 2018. That contract increased pay and benefits for all members and passed by the highest percentage ever, 96%. Once again, that contract was unanimously approved by City Council and blessed by Mayor Turner.
President Joe Gamaldi
Night shift police officer Joe Gamaldi became President of the HPOU in 2018. Having ably served as Vice President of the HPOU, President Gamaldi hit the ground running with more energy than many had seen in a long time. Gamaldi was not intimidated by anyone and quickly gained the respect of many at the HPOU. Gamaldi was instrumental in assisting with the 2018 contract and shortly after his election to the presidency of the HPOU, he was elected Vice President of the National Fraternal Order of Police and became the national voice of law enforcement.
New Century/New Name
The Houston Police Officers’ Union started the 21st century with Hans Marticuic as President of the relatively new HPOU and the end of the HPOA (Houston Police Officers’ Association). The HPOA and the Houston Police Patrolman’s Union (HPPU) attempted a merger toward the end of the 1990’s. Although many HPPU members joined the new HPOU, many remained at the HPPU after the merger failed due to misinformation being spread at the last minute. The HPOU remained the Majority Bargaining Agent for all officers. The Police Chief for the City of Houston was C.O. “Clarence” Bradford, who was appointed in 1997.
New Contracts/New Mayor
In 2001, a new Meet and Confer Contract was negotiated with the leadership of the HPOU and a team assembled for the City of Houston by Mayor Lee P. Brown. That contract brought higher pay and increased benefits to all members. The contract was voted on and approved by 86% of the members and unanimously passed by City Council.
In 2003, negotiations began to amend the 2001 Meet and Confer Contract and provide a one year extension. Those amendments were approved by 83% of the members and again unanimously passed by City Council due to the strong relationships built between the HPOU and City Hall.
2004 brought in a new Mayor and another contract extension. Bill White became Houston’s Mayor and Hans Marticuic continued as the HPOU President. The amended contract in 2004 continued to increase pay and benefits for all officers and passed by 91% of members. Once again, City Council unanimously approved the deal.
Police Chief Harold Hurtt
Mayor Bill White did a nationwide search for police chief when he entered office and sadly selected a chief from outside the department when he named Harold Hurtt as the new chief. Hurtt knew virtually no one at the department and selected a command staff based on short interviews and recommendations from others. If you played a mean game of golf, that was definitely a plus for Hurtt. He actually survived for 5 years before leaving HPD and the relatively new President of the HPOU, Gary Blankinship, sent HPOU Boardmember Ray Hunt over to send him off. When Hurtt approached Hunt in the line, he stated, “I am surprised you came.” Hunt replied, “Blankinship sent me to make sure you left.”
HPOU v. HPPU
Throughout the entire decade, fighting continued between the HPOU and the HPPU. Both sides would publish articles bashing the other further dividing the department. The HPOU remained the larger organization, but the HPPU recruited some from each cadet class to keep the organization viable. Many on both sides longed for the day when both groups could come together as one unified voice for all officers.
First Female Police Chief
On January 19, 1990, Mayor Kathy Whitmire appointed Deputy Chief Elizabeth “Betsy” Watson as chief of police. Under Chief Watson, the department established the Personnel Concerns Program. This program was designed to give direct attention to and provided remedial action for employees demonstrating behavioral problems.
Lee v. City of Houston
In March 1991, the Texas Supreme Court ruled on the long-running lawsuit known as Lee v. City of Houston. The lawsuit was a direct result of the hiring of civilian executives and managers into positions that where previously held by ranking officers. The court held that “if a particular job assignment requires no knowledge of police work in the department, and entails no supervision of classified officers, the position need not be classified.” But it held that the statute did prohibit non-classified employees from supervising classified officers.
Chief Sam Nuchia
Chief Sam Nuchia performed a number of noteworthy achievements during his tenure beginning in 1992:
- The Special Response Group was formed and trained to handle large crowds and special events. (1993)
- Response time on Code One call was lowered to 4.4 minutes from a previous high of 6.1 minutes in 1991. (1994)
- New step pay increases were established for officers with 17 years in grade and sergeants and lieutenants with 3 and 8 years in grade respectively. (1994)
- The Women’s Advisory Council was created to review concerns of female officers who, incidental, now comprised 11 percent of the police force. (1995)
- Officers with 20 or more years experience were eligible for the new Deferred Retirement Option Program. (1995)
Preparing for the New Century
In January 1997, Assistant Chief Clarence O. “Brad” Bradford was sworn in as the new chief of police for the city of Houston. Chief Bradford was a 17-year veteran of the Houston Police Department and was also a licensed attorney. Chief Bradford pledged to “cultivate community relations and to suppress crime.”
“Meet and Confer”
“Meet and confer” was a bill signed into law by Governor George W. Bush in 1997 that allowed officers to vote for a representative organization to negotiate for them with the city administration on compensation, benefits and working conditions.
In November 1998, the “meet and confer” package was approved by City Council. This resulted in one of the largest compensation increases for police officers in the history of HPD. The contract created the rank of executive assistant chief and provided for a basic annual pay structure for the department’s 5,324 classified officers.
HPD Goes High Tech
On September 2, 1980, HPD implemented a new computerized application known as the “On-Line Offense (OLO) Report System.” The OLO System was considered the most extensive offense information-handling system available.
In 1981, the new HPD academy opened its doors at 17000 Aldine-Westfield Road. This state-of-the-art facility had the capacity to simultaneously train three cadet classes of 70.
Houston Police Museum
The Houston Police Museum opened its doors to the public on May 10, 1982.
HPD Advancements and Accomplishments
Lee P. Brown became not only the first African American to be appointed chief of police, but also the first chief of police to hold a doctoral degree. He worked to bring neighborhoods and police officers together.
Chief Brown began “neighborhood-oriented policing” as an interactive process between police officers and citizens. Under Chief Brown, the department made several transformations, advances and accomplishments including:
- HPD mandated 40 hours of in-service training annually for officers. (1983)
- The Positive Interaction Program (PIP) was established to involve citizens in fighting crime by establishing committees in selected areas. (1983)
- There were 3,464 officers of whom 266 were female. (1983)
- HPD planned to re-institute a mounted patrol downtown. (1984)
- The Park Police were transferred to the Houston Police Department. (1984)
- Under state law, drug testing began for police applicants. (1985)
- The first command station (Westside) was opened. (1987)
- The FBI reported that the past year was the first since 1977 that Houston had only 339 homicides. (1988)
- A new city ordinance required 60 college hours for entrance into the Police Academy. (1989)
Under the leadership of Chief Brown, HPD became the 78th department in the nation, and the largest, to win accreditation from the Commission of Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. The accreditation was awarded in 1988 after several members of the commission conducted a public hearing and reviewed department policies, procedures, training and equipment.
HPD Takes Flight
The Helicopter Patrol Division was formed with three leased helicopters in January, 1970. This became the largest helicopter patrol in the nation.
Other Events of 1970
The City Council approved the purchase of the first bulletproof vests for the department. Thirty vests were purchased at a cost of $157 each. The City Council also approved the hiring of 30 civilians to replace officers in clerical and telephone work.
The first in-house video training for in-service was established.
For the first time, officers were able to use scholarship funds from the 1969 Omnibus Crime Bill to attend colleges and universities. This increased the number of officers with bachelor’s degrees to 95.
The Texas Commission of Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education (TCLEOSE) established minimum appointment standards for applicants to become peace officers.
The Department formed the Special Weapons and Tactical Squad (SWAT)
The number of officers in the department increased to 2,541 and 698 civilians.
1977 Reaches Out
HPD announced that officers would begin to receive incentive pay for intermediate and advanced certificates issued by TCLEOSE.
The department established the Internal Affairs Division (IAD) whose first case included the beating and drowning of Jose “Joe” Campos Torres. Following the case, the department worked with Hispanic leaders, including Dr. Guadalupe Quienanilla, to develop closer community ties.
The department reinitiated the issuance of nightsticks or batons as a defensive weapon.
“Houstonians on Watch” and AFIS
The department announced a new neighborhood crime program in 1979 called “Houstonians on Watch”. The program combined police patrol with citizen awareness and concentrated on high-crime areas.
Also in 1979, HPD became one of the only five police departments in the country to have an Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS). This system was described as a computerized minutia-based fingerprint system, capable of storing approximately 375,000 criminal fingerprints. These records not only contained the fingerprints of criminals but also descriptive information and an additional 12,000 unidentified latent fingerprints.
Man’s Best Friend
In March 1960, Officer R.D. Whitcomb and his German Shepherd became the first members of the K-9 Corps. Officer Whitcomb and his dog picked up a burglar’s scent and followed him for four blocks. They found the suspect hiding behind a chicken coop.
The Central Intelligence Division was created in 1960 to track “hoodlums.”
JFK Recognizes Law Enforcement
In 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed a law that designated May 15 as National Peace Officer’s Memorial Day.
Chief Short Serves Long
Mayor Welch appointed Herman B. Short as chief of police in 1964. Chief Short holds the record as the longest-serving chief of police with tenure of 9 years and 10 months.
The Department Grows Again
In 1966, HPD had 1,337 officers, patrolled 446 square miles and served a city population of 1,152,000. That same year the department’s first bomb squad was established.
The Highs and Lows of 1967
In 1967, HPD received a 22 percent pay raise spread out of a 3-year period. That same year the department formed the Community Relations Division.
Rioting erupted at Texas Southern University in May, 1967. After much gunfire, the turbulence finally ceased. However, during the course of the riot, HPD Officer Louis Kuba was killed and 488 students were arrested. It was the newly formed Community Relations Division that provided a communication by bringing together small groups of police officers and minority leaders for discussions. The Community Relations Division has been credited to aiding in the improvement of the police and minority relations in Houston.
Changing HPD Requirements
By 1969, HPD had grown to 1,577 classified officers and 223 civilian personnel with a budget of $19,400,000. With this growth it was decided to lower the entrance requirements.
Minimum weight for males was dropped from 150 to 140 pounds. The requirement that women applicants would not be eligible if they had pre-school aged children as also changed. Women were now eligible if their children were on year of age of older. The visual requirements were also reduced.
1969 Pay Scale
In 1969, the monthly pay for police personnel was as follows:
|Officer (4 years)||$725|
1950: The Year of the Professor
After rising through the ranks of HPD, Chief Morrison became chief of police in 1950. Not only was he a college professor who taught sociology and criminology at the University of Houston, he also had special training at Northwestern University and the New York Police Academy.
Chief Morrison Takes Control
In 1951, Chief Morrison handpicked the first 14 men that would head up the “booster squad.” This squad was designed to strike at crime-infested areas of the city. The squadÃ•s identity was unknown even to many of the highest ranking officers.
A new $2,750,000 police administration and jail building was opened on August 11, 1952. After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, citizens were given tours of the new police substation.
1954: New Man in Town
In 1954, Mayor Hofheinz appointed Sergeant Jack Heard to the position of chief of police. Chief Heard held a master’s degree from University of Houston and had attended Rice as an undergraduate. During his tenure, women were hired to work for HPD as dispatchers, jail matrons and to perform clerical duties. Chief Heard also announced that, for the first time in history, the department would have a police chaplain. The chaplainÃ•s duties were to attend police functions as well as be available to help officers in their time of need.
New Chief of Police
In 1956, Carl Shuptrine, who had a law degree, moved up through the ranks to become chief police. One of his first actions was to eliminate the downtown foot patrol in 1957. The 70 officers were transferred to patrol cars. Chief Shuptrine’s objective was to “decentralize” HPD in order to more effectively patrol the city’s newly annexed areas. At this time, Houston had grown to 352 square miles and some officers had to drive 20 miles to get to their beats.
Onward and Upward
By 1940, HPD had grown to 466 officers and had a budget of $918,000. The increase in radios within the department caused several changes. For instance the first PBX operator was hired to filter calls and prevent undue delay in sending an officer to the call. Also, HPD began giving voluntary blood tests to determine the degree of intoxication of suspected drunken drivers..
1945: The Birth of HPOA
In 1945, the formation of the Houston Police Officers Association took place. Although this association was developed to assist officers, membership during the first two years was discouraged. The officers organizing this group had to “slip around” and meetings were often in secret. That was until 1947 when Governor Buford Jester signed into law the civil service bill known as 1269 M. This legislation gave valuable protection to union members and was significant victory for the officers of the department.
HPOA Protection in Court
In 1948, a state referendum was passed that allowed aggrieved police officers immediate access to the courts, which in turn gave them the protection from arbitrary demotion by unregulated political powers.
1949: The Chief Steps In
Police Chief Payne distributed an eight-page pamphlet with 150 rules and regulations governing officer conduct and behavior.
Tragically in 1930, two officers were killed in the line of duty during the famous Touchy Furniture Store robbery. Officers found that .38 caliber bullets fired at the fleeing suspects did not penetrate their vehicles. With the inability of their current firearms to penetrate the vehicles, HPD ordered more powerful .44 caliber Smith & Wesson revolvers.
The year had some positives for HPD, however:
- The third substation, North Side, was opened.
- The Homicide Division was created.
- The first in-service police school was created.
- Percy Heard was sworn in as Superintendent of Police.
- Two Thompson Machine guns were purchased for the apprehension of “desperate criminals.”
- 425 Special officers (Reserves) were sworn in and appointed by the Mayor.
- The first “Shadow Box” was installed so victims could view the prisoners without being observed themselves.
The Year of DPS
In 1933, the Police and Fire departments briefly merged to form the Department of Public Safety. Also during this year, the first two-way radio transmission took place via the newly established police radio station KGZB.
Improvements in HPD
Although 1934 was still in the midst of the Depression, HPD was growing steadily. The budget increased to $560,000 and the number of officers had grown to 346. Also in 1934, Chief Payne instituted a weekly firearm inspection for his officers.
1936: HPD Gets Its License
The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) named HPD as one of the first five police departments in the United States to be licensed.
The Class of ’39
In 1939, HPD established the first police academy class. The class was five weeks in length and held at the Sam Houston Coliseum. The first written intelligence test was administered to 597 applicants and only 362 passed with a grade of 70 or above. One of the questions asked on the test and is still asked on today’s test is “Why do you want to be a police officer?” Out of the 362 applicants that passed the test, 50 were selected to attend the first academy. On August 16, 1939 the first class graduated and was referred to as the “Class of ’39.”
BHPD department revised its applicant examination in 1920 to cover testing of a police officer’s duties and responsibilities. Items tested included arrest procedures, taking of evidence and circumstances in which the use of firearms was permissible. Results revealed that most applicants had inadequate education in police procedures, but no minimum score on the test was set in order to become a police officer.
1921: Year of Changes
By 1921, the Houston population had grown to 177,920 and the city installed its first traffic signal. It was operated manually by a squad of 22 officers. That same year, the title of Chief of Police was changed to Superintendent of Police and the Police Burial Fund was established. The fund cost officers 50 cents per month and paid out a $200 benefit. The benefit was later raised to $500.
The First Substation
On October 19, 1926, HPD opened its first substation called Magnolia Park near the ship channel. Because this was during the era of Prohibition, The officers at this substation were kept busy dealing with liquor violations. In the first year of Magnolia Park’s operation, officers seized and destroyed approximately 142 gallons of whiskey and more that 9,000 bottles of beer.
1927: What a Year!
In 1927, the first Mounted Traffic Squad was established and the first automatic traffic signals were installed. The first car radio was tuned to KPRC, the only radio station in Houston.
1929: Chief McPhail Takes a Stand
The Houston Chronicle reported that the position of policewoman was abolished because the Police Chief McPhail believed “a woman on the police force is unnecessary.” The position of matron was deemed more appropriate since it had no arrest powers.
1929: First Crime Statistics Reported
|Robbery by Firearms||50|
|Robbery for Assault||26|
First Police Officer Killed in Line of Duty
HPD Chief William Murphy became the first officer killed in the line of duty on April 1, 1910, when he was shot by former police officer Earl McFarland. Since there were no eyewitnesses who could discredit McFarland’s self-defense claim he was found not guilty of the crime.
Houston Police Go Modern
Also in 1910, the department purchased its first police car. Due to the large number of horses, motorcycles and automobiles, traffic had become dense in the downtown area. This resulted in the formation of the first traffic squad within the city. Officers mounted on both horses and motorcycles worked to slow down speeders.
In 1915 police officers received their first pay raise since 1873. The pay increase of $5 raised monthly salaries to $65. During the same year the workday was shortened from 12 to 8 hours, beginning the three-shift system in the Houston Police Department.
The First Policewoman
Eva Jane Bacher was the first woman hired to the Houston Police Department in 1918. In 1921, Bacher worked in the Police Morale and Safety Squad, making her the first female detective in HPD. Officer Bacher, along with the other detectives in the squad received $5 more per month than patrol officers.
The City of Houston is Born
Shortly after Texas won its independence from Mexico in 1836, two brothers from New York, Augustus C and John K. Allen, purchased land located on the banks of Buffalo Bayou. It was here that the city of Houston was established.
Texas Congress Incorporates the City of Houston
Approved by President Sam Houston on June 5, 1837, the new Texas Congress passed an act to incorporate the city of Houston. That same year, G. W. Holland was elected as the first constable of Houston.
A New Police Force
During the years leading up to the Civil War, there was little patrolling of the town. After the war, Marshal Isaac C. Lord proposed to the City Council a set of hiring requirements and rules to govern the conduct of the police force.