Protests in the wake of the death of Houston native George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody have highlighted, again, the ways in which many communities and their police departments are at odds. Cities across the state, even those with so-called progressive reputations, are facing protests against police brutality.
Art Acevedo heads the Houston Police Department. He is a former Austin police chief. He has expressed solidarity with those advocating for changes in policing, and walked with protesters in Houston last weekend. He’s also the president of the Major Cities Chiefs Association. Acevedo told Texas Standard host David Brown on Thursday that by walking, he aimed to calm tensions and to express support for those who’ve been hurt by systemic racism and police violence.
“When you take the time to march with an aggrieved community, and you get to see up close and personal the pain in the eyes of a lot of black members of our community, and other members of our community, you see the deep-seated pain … but also the disproportionality that’s gone on for generations,” Acevedo said.
He said the protests, and the video of Floyd’s death, have had a big effect on him and on other police officers.
“If that doesn’t touch someone’s heart, they either have no heart or they’re surely part of the problem,” Acevedo said.
The majority of protesters, Acevedo said, are demonstrating in opposition to bad actions by some officers, but he said that they also support “good police officers.”
“They just hate police officers that abuse the badge, and when we do nothing about it,” he said.
But he said the problem is bigger than just bad policing on a local level.
“The solution isn’t just police,” Acevedo said. “We need the tools and the reforms and the laws that need to be changed by legislatures and Congress.”
He cited the Minneapolis Police Department’s “use of force” policy as one problem, and suggested a nationwide conversation about use of force rules, and a “bad cop registry.”
In Houston, Acevedo has been criticized for not releasing video of six shootings by police officers. He has said in the past that he wouldn’t release the videos out of respect for the families of those who were shot. He told Texas Standard that he would release the tapes if family members gave permission. Two families in Houston have declined to do so. He plans to release video from a third incident once he gets permission from the district attorney.
Acevedo also suggested that releasing tapes of such incidents would risk tainting the jury pool if an officer were to be charged in such a case.
“I think we need to have a national standard, and I think we need to have a national conversation immediately on what the policy should be,” he said.
Web story by Shelly Brisbin.
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