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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 At today’s press conference the Mayor seemed to dismiss the recommendations as no longer valid given the current movement to reform our policing system.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.
- 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.