HOUSTON – Mayor Sylvester Turner appointed a 45-member task force to outline recommendations for policing reform in Houston. The committee will review policies and practice of the Houston Police Department and the independent police oversight board, Turner announced Wednesday at a press conference.
Laurence “Larry” Payne was selected by Turner to serve as chair of the police reform task force. Payne, a longtime political and community leader, is currently the Director of Strategic Partnerships, Civic Engagement, and Critical Conversations for the Houston Public Library.
Turner said the residents selected to contribute on the task force represent diverse backgrounds, sectors and affiliations, including the NACCP, the Urban League, the disabled, the LGBTQIA+ community, business, education, Millennials and the faith-based community. He also named five special advisors to the task force.
“I don’t intend to dictate to the members of the task force how they should do their work, what conclusion they should reach, or the recommendations that they should make,” Turner said.
The task force will meet for the first time during the week of July 6, according to Houston officials.
Turner provided the task force with a list of “charge items” to consider, but not limited to:
- Review the Houston Police Department policies and practices related to the use of force
- Review the operations of the independent police oversight boards and recommend changes
- Establish criteria for when video footage, i.e. office body camera, should or should not be released to the public
- Outline best practices for crisis diversion when dealing with substance abuse, mental health and homelessness
- Evaluate the HPD Crisis Intervention Response Team
- Evaluate and set recommendations for HPD’s community police and relational policing practices
- Outline how to decrease the presence of police without adversely affecting safety
The task force will present a final report to Turner, which will outline the assessment, findings and recommendations, by Sept. 30. The report will include practical recommendations, implementation plans, improvement metrics and timelines, when applicable.
“It is my hope that they can get the job done in 60 days, not longer than 90 days,” Turner said.
Turner said this is not the only avenues the city is taking to address police reform.
Following the funeral of Houston native George Floyd, the Houston city council passed several provisions seeking to reduce police brutality, including banning chokeholds and strangleholds, a duty to de-escalate, requiring officers to warn before shooting and prohibiting officers from shooting at moving vehicles.
Harris County Commissioners County also approved eight measures to reform the criminal justice system that currently aids in mass incarceration and police brutality against people of color and the poor community.
“This is just one piece of it,” Turner said. “We are still learning. We are all having to listen. We are all having to respond. We are not perfect. But, we are doing our best to respond.”
Here is the complete list of the Mayor’s Task Force of Policing Reform: