Tag Archives: police reform

On Mayor Turner’s Police Reform Task Force

First of all, I am of the opinion that all the great ideas to reform our local police departments have already been discussed and presented, and that they have been presented prior to the events that occurred in Minneapolis.

There has been a dire need for police reform in most cities, including Houston, for decades and nothing has been attempted; if anything, it’s been avoided for political expediency and to appease those who do not support any kind of police reform. We don’t need committees, we need decisive leadership to change the system and the culture of policing.

A committee of favorites that doesn’t include groups that have been at the forefront of police reform advocacy will not come up with anything new. If anything, my fear is that a committee of favorites will only serve as a rubber stamp for the wants of the Mayor, the Chief of Police and the police union. This must be of, by, and for the people, and this committee has too many familiar faces that only talk a good game. For some, it seems it’s what they do for a living.

I wholeheartedly agree with Transform Houston which states:

  1. The 45-person board does not include any individuals currently associated with Black Lives Matter Houston. Moreover, it includes only one organization that is part of the Houston Right2Justice Coalition which has already offered community driven policy recommendations on policing to Mayor Turner.
  2. A number of individuals represented on the task force have been employed by law enforcement agencies. If our goal is to explore ways to end the status quo problems with modern policing, having so many individuals at the table who have been deeply entrenched within those broken structures seems counterproductive to achieving meaningful reform.
  3. Mayor Turner has now had 2 separate bodies recommend police reform measures – both his 2016 Transition Committee on Criminal Justice and a 2017 report on fiscal responsibility and economic growth. The recommendations from both of those reports have yet to be implemented. At today’s press conference the Mayor seemed to dismiss the recommendations as no longer valid given the current movement to reform our policing system. To be clear, there are measures that have been proposed that could be immediately implemented by Mayor Turner that would begin the process of reforming how HPD does its work.
  4. Finally, Pastor Max Miller is listed as a member of the task force. Pastor Miller is well known as an anti-LGBTQ activist who worked tirelessly to spread misinformation about Houston’s transgender community during the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance City Council debates and ballot initiative.

The list of members of the committee is here. I know a few of them personally and a few others I know of their works in the community. According to the Mayor, their charge is to review policies, review the current independent review board, assess release of body camera footage, study best practices, assess community policing practices, and study the presence of police in the community. So, I agree with Kuff when he says let’s see them do something.

But, this kind of “study” should be an ongoing thing and not just one that happens when 60,000 people show up to rally, or when HPD kills the next black or brown person and fails to release results of an internal investigation. When it comes to police practices, and given the current surge of bad apples in policing and those quitting because of rules being imposed on them, the whole system should be under citizen watch beyond our cell phones.

The Mayor and Council are supposed to be our advocates as we elect them to oversee our government services (including police), but it appears that they are falling short. And a committee of favorites does not help this cause.

 

The Latest on Local Police Reform

The Harris County Commissioner’s Court approved a long list of items that could lead to reform of law enforcement at the county level.

At the very least, these reforms will create some semblance of transparency over law enforcement budgeting and statistics regarding racial disparities in the system itself, and create a mechanism to ensure the indigent are represented in criminal courts. Most importantly, it gets the ball rolling on an independent civilian oversight board with subpoena power.

Sheriff Ed Gonzalez took to social media to tell us of his dislike of the #defund movement, stating that more money is needed. My own thinking is that a more transparent budget process would definitely allow us to look beyond the usually undisputed round numbers that go with funding law enforcement.

He added:

I’m putting in the work to review how my agency can do better. For some changes, we don’t need extra time to review, I’m moving forward now. Other changes may require more time, simply because they’re complex issues that require thoughtful deliberation. We prohibit the use of chokeholds, but we’re going to make it even more clear in policy. We will immediately implement a Duty to Report policy. We will increase audits of our BWC’s and taser use. And more is in the works. The time to act is now.

I hope the Sheriff understands that it takes these types of events, including the local unresolved murder-by-cop case in his own department of Joshua Johnson, to exact some action from our leaders. A lot more is needed. Above all, these things must be codified in countywide (and statewide and federal) fashion so that the next Sheriff doesn’t obliterate it all.

Either way, it’s good to see something that was decided by those whom we elected.

In other news…

After City Council failed to support a comprehensive list of police reforms submitted as budget amendments by CM Letitia Plummer, they approved an increase in funding for HPD. Instead, Mayor Sylvester Turner signed an executive order on police practices.

The EO covers the police department’s response to resistance, de-escalation, use of deadly force, prohibited techniques, and no-knock warrants. For the first time, it codifies prohibited techniques, such as neck restraints or chokeholds, which cannot be used unless objectively necessary to prevent imminent serious bodily injury or death to the officer or others.

No word on reforms that lead to more transparency and accountability, such as release of bodycam film and investigations of the bad apples and the good apples who allow them to be bad, but, supposedly, there is a task force.

Obviously, we will all keep an eye on this and the coming push back from the naysayers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fired HC Deputy Chauna Thompson Up For Cop Post in Somerville

6/10/2020 UPDATE:  Somerville Votes NO

You heard right.

Chauna (Sheffield) Thompson is being considered for a police officer post by the City of Somerville, TX.

Thompson is a former Harris County Sheriff’s Department deputy who, while off-duty, assisted her husband in the choke-hold murder of John Hernandez at a Denny’s in East Harris County in May, 2017.

Her husband, Terry, was convicted; however, DA Kim Ogg made the decision to drop the charges against Chauna Thompson because she didn’t think her office could prove Thompson intended to kill Hernandez and Thompson wasn’t in the area of the killing the entire time. The video shows Terry choking Hernandez and Chauna holding Hernandez down.

Effectively found not guilty by the DA, (Sheffield) Thompson is now free to work as a police officer, again. And, now, she is up for a post in the small town of Somerville, TX, located north of Brenham on TX36. Somerville must not let this happen.

The town is diverse, with 33% Hispanic and 32% African American population. Given the diversity, given Thompson’s record of participating in a murder, the City Council’s consideration of her application does not give off that feeling of trying to earn the trust of the community in these days of needed police reform. Her hiring would definitely not create that trust.

UPDATE:  A quick look at the City Council agenda attachments shows that Sheffield is being considered for re-employment, so, apparently, she has already been employed by Somerville in the recent past since her HCSO firing in 2017.

Justice for John Hernandez and others will be participating in a rally at Somerville’s City Council meeting tomorrow with the hope of convincing the City Council to vote down (Sheffield) Thompson’s application.

If you believe Somerville deserves better, attend the rally outside the city council meeting Tuesday (JUNE 9) at 5:30. The meeting is at the Somerville Senior Center on HWY 36 across from Mama’s Restaurant.

somerville

Hillary Clinton Didn’t Say Anything about Mass Immigrant Incarceration

Hillary-Send-Them-Back-ClintonHillary Clinton was being embraced by her supporters today for her speech on law enforcement and incarceration reforms. But missing from this puzzle was the piece that explains billions of dollars wasted and thousands of lives affected–immigrant incarceration.

It’s no secret that there is much waste in the form of immigrant-hunting in this country. Policies that federalize local cops to participate in immigrant hunting, incarceration, and deportation have been given steroids by the Obama Administration, while Republicans ask for more. . Republican-led state legislatures threaten “show me your papers” and racial profiling laws while awful policies are already in place. These policies have increased the distrust that immigrants and Latinos have of the police

When the media- and politically-driven hysteria about thousands of Central American children and women escaping violence and poverty came about, Hillary Clinton was among those calling for their immediate deportation after they’ve spent the whole time in inhumane private immigrant prisons–no opportunity for release or legal assistance.

So, when Clinton didn’t include this boondoggle that affects families and that has needlessly locked up and deported innocent working people with little-to-no record, and let’s not forget, little kids, it was very noticeable. Perhaps not to her hard-core fans and supporters who are proud apologists for her and the Obama administration, but I certainly noticed it.

It shouldn’t be this easy to ignore the obvious as a presidential candidate with little to no opposition (apologies to Bernie). If we are to have a conversation about police and incarceration reform, then it must include immigrant incarceration and deportation reform. Treatment of immigrants in these private prisons is just about as bad as cops killing people of color on the streets. Clinton and all candidates cannot pretend it doesn’t exist.