Mayor Turner’s task force on police reform releases over 100 recommendations

HOUSTON – Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner’s task force on policing reform released 104 recommendations Wednesday afternoon.

The task force’s chairman, Jerry Payne, was joined by co-chairs and the 45 members who were appointed by Turner in June. 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 advisers to the task force.

Watch the full press conference below:

WATCH LIVE: Mayor Turner’s task force on police reform to release recommendations on Wednesday

Posted by KPRC2 / Click2Houston on Wednesday, September 30, 2020

The task force was put in place to help review the Houston Police Department policies and practices following the death of George Floyd and several officer-involved shootings in the city.

Turner said for the past 80 to 90 days, members of the task force conducted research and listened to people of all levels in the community and law enforcement officials to help configure the list of recommendations. He said the goal is transparency.

“People recognize the importance of police. They want accountability and transparency,” Turner said.

These are just a few of the recommendations commissioned by the group to the Houston Police Department, such as releasing body-cam footage, stricter regulations on no-knock warrants and the authority to subpoena records for investigations into police officers.

Payne announced that the report is divided into six sections:

  • Community policing: Integrate respectful, consistent, and meaningful community engagement and input into existing work practices, including recruiting, training, patrolling, and promoting.
  • Independent oversight: Overhaul the current Independent Police Oversight Board to support a full-time, paid administrative and investigative staff, accompanied by a diverse civilian board, to hold the Houston Police Department accountable to a higher standard.
  • Power dynamics: Balance the power dynamics between the Houston Police Department and Houstonians by releasing body-worn camera footage of critical incidents in a consistent and timely manner, further restricting the use of force, treating people with due respect, and committing to transparency by releasing audit and performance data on a regular basis.
  • Crises intervention: Expand existing partnerships between the Houston Police Department, mental health professionals, and social services organizations to lighten the load on officers when responding to vulnerable populations, such as those experiencing mental health crises, domestic violence, human trafficking, substance abuse, and homelessness.
  • Field readiness: Equip and prepare officers for better engagement in the field through initiatives like reviewing and updating officer training, expanding mental health and wellness programs for officers, and instituting a mentorship program.
  • Clear expectations: Set clear and unambiguous expectations for officers so that they feel supported, know exactly what behavior is required, and understand the consequences of their action or inaction.

Here are a few key highlights from the report:

- Improving community engagement, including a three-week externship for police cadets to spend time at various community organizations.

- Overhaul the current Independent Police Oversite Board.

- Requiring the release of body-worn camera footage to the public.

Payne said each section mentions how police reforming must be backed by the community.

“It’s about community policing. Simple thing is building relationships and respect -- nothing happens without trust,” Payne said.

Click here to read the full report.

In August, five Houston city council members sent a letter to Turner, making 25 recommendations, including mandatory discipline for officers making racial or culturally insensitive public comments, and random psychological exams.

The letter suggested that reforms address cellphone use around police, undercover officer conduct, cite-and-release legislation, incentive pay for residency, recruitment, video recordings of officer-involved shooting scenes, random psychological exams, a college-degree requirement, social media guidelines, protest guidelines, body camera footage guidelines, and guidelines for the chief to appear before the committee.

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