Let’s make something abundantly clear regardless of your position on political issues and whether you agree or disagree with the chief, he should NOT be making political statements in uniform.
If any one of us were to make political statements in uniform, we would be disciplined. We cannot have one set of rules for the chief of police and a different set for every one of us. The chief must lead by example and focus on running the Houston Police Department.
I had this very conversation with him Monday morning and let him know how the membership is feeling.
Controlling the Narrative
By now most of you have seen the viral video involving a Northeast officer on a felony traffic stop. The media attempted to skewer this officer regarding the stop and how he gained compliance.
I immediately jumped on the story to control the narrative that the officer was stopping a stolen car, that the suspects were in possession of 80 grams of a white powdery substance and were not following the officers instructions. This made for a very dangerous situation. We used our social media to call out the media on their one-sided story and defend our officer. I encourage you all to take a look. The officer will not be receiving discipline for this case.
As you may have noticed, we have been doing this as a practice to jump in front of negative news stories, including the officer riding on the hood of the patrol car and a recent lawsuit that was brought against officers.
In the past these cases would be handled with an answer of “we can’t comment because litigation is pending,” but I believe in defending officers and not allowing them to be dragged through the mud. The only time you will see the HPOU not getting out in front of these is when the subject officer asks us not to. It is their case and if they don’t want it fought out in public we will respect their wishes.
If you are the subject of a viral video or negative media story, I encourage you to contact me immediately so that we can begin controlling the narrative and insure that they don’t drag your good name through the mud. Here is my contact info if you didn’t already have it: cell- 832-283-9492, email firstname.lastname@example.org or you can contact me on FB or twitter.
Body Camera Concerns
We did not want this body camera company we now have. We spoke out publicly when the company was selected by Mayor Parker and the previous administration. The largest order they had filled prior to ours was 100 body cameras. We wanted the department to wait until problems could be flushed out with these, as other smart departments did, and then move forward.
They did not listen, and we have been stuck with an inferior product, which is why it is going out for bid again.
I have heard you all on the safety issue of constantly looking down to make sure your camera is on instead of focusing on the suspect in front of you. Technology exists to trigger your camera (and only your camera) when you open your door, and this way you no longer have to worry about it. It completely removes the department’s ability to discipline you for not activating it and if anything goes wrong when your camera doesn’t turn on, the blame will be on technology and not the officer.
Of course, the down side is you have to remember to turn it off when going to eat or use the restroom etc., but this will ultimately be the safer option for the streets and the disciplinary side of things. We have checked with other departments who have them and they prefer to not have to worry about activation. In the meantime, we are working on limiting the discipline for activations.
We have been in meetings with the department on addressing the disciplinary issues associated with body cameras. The department has agreed with an activation matrix so that your first non-activation with be a written or an SI with mitigating circumstances, second violation (within six months) would be a day off, third violation (within a year) four days, and fourth violation (within a year) would be 10 days.
Although we don’t want to see any officer disciplined for not activating cameras period, this is a vast improvement from the all-over-the-scale we have been seeing. In addition, all the minor body camera issues of muting and not muting etc., etc., will be handled with an SI.
Along with the matrix you will see additional training on body cameras, a policy committee to review and change what we have and constant reminders about activation. I instructed the chief that he has a problem with his policy, training, and discipline and he has agreed to look at all aspects of body cameras.
I wanted to put one rumor to bed about cursing in a video in the heat of doing your job. The rumor is that officers have been disciplined for cursing on camera within the course and scope of doing their job to control a scene or get the attention of a difficult suspect, and it’s just not accurate. We have had two cases that we are aware of in the entire department for cursing, both of which were egregious. You guys know how to do your job and when you need to control a scene, that ability is not being taken away from you.
The audit process by supervisors should be handled in the following manner: things found on the audit should be handled with a verbal counseling or SI unless the conduct is egregious. They should then be reporting that to their captain to decide whether the complaint is filed. If that is not how it is being conducted at your station you need to let us know.
I have been hearing from all of you on discipline and that the chief has been giving out way more than in years past. As I was gearing up for the public fight on this, I ran the numbers and found that in Chief McClelland’s last 12 months he suspended 153 times. In Chief Acevedo’s last 12 months here, he has suspended 157 times.
When going into a public battle it is important to know the facts beforehand. Otherwise you risk losing credibility with the very people you are trying to influence to your position. We will continue to monitor discipline closely, but I implore you: if you have been disciplined and you believe the cite or the suspension is not warranted, you need to come in and APPEAL your case.
We have fought long and hard to have the ability to appeal cases, a right that many people around this country want to take away from you. So use the rights that we have fought for. We are also looking to cut the legs out from under these complaints before they start.
Approximately two months ago we got the department to agree to begin reviewing body cam footage when a citizen came into intake at IAD to make a complaint. If the body cam footage clears the officer, no investigation will take place. IAD averages about 20 complaints a month from citizens and I’m happy to report that over the last two months 10 cases have been completely stopped there, with no investigation, no letters, etc.
So approximately one fourth of complaints from citizens are being stopped the day they are brought in. In addition, every single use-of-force incident that has been captured on body cam has been exonerated to this point (exception of one incident where the officer has been indicted with the case still pending). In addition, we have successfully had our first citizen charged (in recent memory) for making a false complaint against an officer, with body cam footage being the nail in the coffin.
But there is no better example of the need for cameras to protect us than the recent incident where a woman lied about a state trooper sexually assaulting her. The camera completely cleared the trooper. In addition, since this happened in Texas, I used social media to slam the woman who brought the false accusation and the so-called journalist who ran with the story. I encourage you to go take a look.
As most of you are aware, the rumors run rampant in this department, most of which are untrue or embellished in some way. If you ever have questions regarding these rumors, please reach out to us and we will provide you with the facts.
Never Forget Fallen Brothers, Sisters
As you all may be aware, the killer of Officer Gary Gryder comes up for release from a mental institution every year. This year was no different. At the beginning of May he was once again recommended for release from a mental institution.
Ray Hunt and I joined the Gryder family for two days of testimony before State Dist. Judge Maria Jackson. As she has done every year prior, Judge Jackson ordered that Gary’s killer remain in the mental institution for another year and until such time that he is a no longer a threat to the community.
You may remember Judge Jackson was the same judge who no bonded the suspect that was responsible for the death of our K9 Officer Rony. I would like to applaud Judge Jackson for her common sense and logic in dealing with these cases.
In a criminal justice system that is increasingly devoid of such novel ideals like common sense, she is a breath of fresh air.
At the same time Gary Gryder killer was being sentenced to another year, we learned of the bombshell development regarding Alfred Brown, the No. 1 prime suspect in the murder of Officer Charlie Clark.
We at the HPOU have always maintained that our Homicide Division did an exhaustive investigation and correctly identified Alfred Brown as the murderer of Charlie Clark. He was then tried and convicted by a jury of his peers. After more than a decade on Death Row he was released based on a phone record he believes proves his alibi. The phone record was discovered and, as a result, he was released, NOT because he was ruled innocent but because the appeals judges believe he is entitled to a new trial.
Now anyone who has been in the profession for longer than a few days will tell you that criminal cases deteriorate over time. You have witnesses that die, some people don’t want to testify again, etc., etc.
The Brown case was no different. However, based once again on the incredible work of our Homicide Division, I am convinced that we will be having another trial and that Alfred Brown will be convicted and that finally the Clark family with receive justice.
Homicide has been able to confirm that the very phone record Alfred Brown used to “bluff” his way out of prison will actually be the instrument of his demise. The phone record will show that he was right where witnesses placed him on the day of the murder and that he had simply three-way called to make it seem like he was somewhere else. There will be expert testimony to confirm that.
I share these stories with you to show that when we say “Gone but not forgotten” those aren’t empty words to share with families but an oath we take at our Union to insure justice is served and that our surviving families are always taken care of.
I hope the above information has been helpful to let you know we are hearing your concerns and are engaged in trying to address the problems. If you have any other issues, please don’t hesitate to contact me or a board member at any time.
As always, be safe out there.