Houston Police Chief Troy Finner retired amid suspended cases dispute, mayor says

Effective around 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, Executive Assistant Chief Larry Satterwhite took his place as acting chief of police.

By Sarah Grunau & Lucio Vasquez, Houston Public MediaMay 10, 2024 8:45 am,

From Houston Public Media:

An email at the center of news reports that Police Chief Troy Finner was aware of a code used to suspend more than 260,000 incident reports was the “final straw” in his sudden decision to retire, Houston Mayor John Whitmire told reporters Wednesday.

The announcement of his retirement came in the form of an email to city employees late Tuesday night. A spokesperson for the mayor’s office told Houston Public Media on Wednesday that Finner’s notice of retirement was given verbally, and the city has not yet received a retirement letter.

His resignation comes a week after the Houston Police Department wrapped up an investigation into the thousands of police cases that were suspended by an internal lack of personnel code. However, according to Whitmire, the internal investigation was reopened just days later.

During a media briefing on Wednesday, Whitmire called Finner “a good friend” and said he felt “sick” when he learned of the chief’s sudden retirement. Whitmire added that he believed the ongoing investigation was “disruptive to the department” and aimed to refocus the department by getting HPD “out of the news.” Whitmire also emphasized that he didn’t push Finner to retire and that Finner had made the decision on his own.

“Chief Finner chose to retire. I accepted it and it was not easy,” Whitmire said. “Chief Finner was spending so much time dealing with the press, dealing with the department…It was affecting operations at HPD.”

Effective around 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Executive Assistant Chief Larry Satterwhite took his place as acting chief of the Houston Police Department.

“This decision comes with full confidence in acting Chief Satterwhite’s abilities to lead and uphold the high standards of the department,” Whitmire wrote in the email on Tuesday.

Acting Chief Larry Satterwhite.
Lucio Vasquez / Houston Public Media

According to Whitmire, HPD’s internal investigation has, so far, given “no indication that [Satterwhite] knew anything” about a code that was reportedly used to suspend more than 264,000 unreviewed incident reports over the last eight years. The same can’t be said for Finner, whose retirement came just hours after TV stations reported Finner knew of the code as far back as 2018 — despite his claims that he learned of the code during a meeting in Nov. 2021.

RELATED: Houston police’s internal probe into suspended cases has concluded, Chief Finner says

In an evening post to X on Tuesday, Finner said he had no recollection of a 2018 email exchange obtained by several Houston TV stations in which he took issue with a road rage case suspended because of a lack of personnel.

“Even though the phrase ‘suspended lack of personnel’ was included in this 2018 email, there is nothing that alerted me to its existence as a code or how it was applied within the department,” he said Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Satterwhite said he was present at the Nov. 2021 meeting where Finner says he first learned of the code, but explained that his recollection was hazy because he had to leave early to conduct a walkthrough NRG Stadium before the infamous Astroworld concert.

“I simply don’t remember much about it,” Satterwhite said about the meeting. “It wasn’t my focus.”

Over the last few months, Finner had promised to release findings of the investigation, but those have yet to be disclosed. On Wednesday, Whitmire ensured that findings will be publicly released once the investigation is wrapped up.

Whitmire added that he doesn’t have any immediate details of a plan to find Houston’s next police chief. Until then, Satterwhite will lead the department.

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