Houston’s newest top cop says he’s looking forward to tackling some of the biggest challenges in keeping Houston safe.
As KHOU found out, he’s dealt with plenty of challenges of his own with his previous law enforcement agencies during his 30-year career.
Twenty minutes into a Friday morning press conference in Austin, the reality hit Chief Art Acevedo.
"It's hard to say goodbye,” said Chief Acevedo, who’s served as Austin’s police chief since 2007. "I love my cops, and I'm gonna miss them."
Acevedo’s words come the day after Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner officially named him the chief of the Houston Police Department after an 11-month nationwide search by a private recruiting firm. Interim Chief Martha Montalvo has filled that position since former HPD Chief Charles McClelland retired in February.
Mayor Turner, like many of Austin’s city officials and community leaders, has praised Acevedo for putting better training, accountability, and community outreach measures during his nine years with Austin Police Department. He’s also lauded for being a visible presence in the community and someone Turner believes can handle the difficult job of protecting the diverse communities of the country's most diverse city.
"He's been able to deal with some very tough, very difficult circumstances,” Turner said on Thursday.
During Friday’s press conference, Acevedo addressed some previous challenges that have garnered attention, including the recent friction between him and the Austin Police Association, the city’s police union. That came about largely after Acevedo fired an officer involved in a deadly, high-profile police shooting in February.
Acevedo was also stripped of five days’ pay after the city manager determined he failed to follow a direct order to stop talking publicly about that shooting during the internal affairs investigation into that case.
"Some people don't want to make the unions angry,” Acevedo said on Friday. “I'm sorry, APA. This isn't Burger King. You don't get it your way all the time."
Acevedo also answered KHOU’s question about his prolonged legal battle against his previous employer of roughly two decades, the California Highway Patrol, a series of events he called “four years of Hell on Earth."
The legal back and forth ended in 2008 with Acevedo winning a nearly $1 million settlement after a state panel found he was retaliated against after he went for the agency's top job and reported unfair pension practices in 2003 and 2004.
"There was some shenanigans going on,” Acevedo said. “I went to the department, I called them out on it, they told me to pound sand. I said, 'No that's not the way it works.'"
That saga all started in 2004 with an anonymous letter accusing Acevedo of sexual harassment, having a relationship with another officer in 1995 when Acevedo was a sergeant and allegedly showing nude pictures of her to co-workers.
The woman later sued Acevedo and the CHP, but a judge threw out the case against the agency, while Acevedo and the woman settled out of court, each paying their own legal expenses.
“I don't want to dredge up that whole thing, because we know how it worked out,” Acevedo said on Friday. “I think I was vindicated."
Austin officials knew this information when they hired Acevedo, though some leaders were hesitant and concerned about controversy.
Houston leaders say they're aware, too, but want Acevedo to be judged on his actions in the Bayou City.