HOUSTON — On Thursday, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, along with other city leaders, announced several major changes within the Houston Police Department as the city continues its efforts to reform policing.
Turner said the changes will assure that police and the community are on the same page.
These changes were drafted by the Mayor's Task Force on Policing Reform, which is a group of 45 people who focused on finding actionable ways to help the police department improve its crisis aversion methods and promote community policing.
One of the biggest assignments the task force had was determining when body camera video should be released to the public.
Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said Thursday the department will now be releasing body cam video within 30 days when there is a death or injury involved.
Finner also said his department will be releasing body camera video to a prosecuting authority investigating a federal and/or state incident within 24 hours of notice.
Finner said one thing the public needs to understand is that it takes a lot to go into releasing body cam footage.
"Understand there are some challenges," Chief Finner said. "But we will be releasing it when we can legally release it."
Other changes happening within HPD:
- Expanding community engagement into cadet training as well as post-training in the first year.
- Remove credit score request from the application process
- Allow the community to submit complaints to community groups like the NAACP, LULA and ISLAMIC Society of Greater Houston. The complaint form will be in multiple languages and accessible.
- Launching a Police Transparency Dashboard website, which will include an online complaint form and five data dashboards showing key statistics about the following departments within HPD: cite and release, traffic stops by race, ethnicity and gender, use of force, HPD Disciplinary Actions and HPD Diversify.
- Expand existing partnerships between HPD, mental health professionals and social services organizations to lighten the load on officers when responding to vulnerable populations.
- Overhaul the department's independent board in exchange for a full-time diverse staff that will hold HPD to a higher standard.
Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg sent the following statement in regards to HPD's new body camera policy:
"We are glad Houston Police are going to increase transparency by releasing certain video recordings to the public. As for the possible impact on trials, we are confident that Harris County juries will be fair by reviewing all the evidence presented in court before making their decisions."
We will have more on this story on KHOU11 News at 4 p.m.