Sam Nuchia in Black and White

Houston's top cop has been a pleasant surprise to the city's black community. But in his own department, it's a different story.

Lloyd Kelley, a first-term member of the Houston City Council and a former Houston police officer, dared to question whether Lanier's recent tax increase to add more cops was necessary. He says that Nuchia wasn't happy about that, and bridled at questions from council members during hearings on Lanier's budget proposals.

"There's a danger when you get a military figure or a police chief who thinks that you can holler the code words 'national security' or 'law enforcement' and suddenly everybody's supposed to become chilled and aren't supposed to ask any more questions," says Kelley. "We're all supposed to bow down to the god of security. I believe the chief of police is supposed to be treated like any other department head. He's supposed to explain what he's doing and explain how he's using his money and not be treated like some prima donna. And I didn't treat him like a prima donna. And he didn't like being questioned."

To gay activist Parker, Nuchia's not a "baffle 'em with bullshit kind of guy. I have always felt that when he told me something , whether I liked it or not, it was true and I could believe it and it was not going to change. Of course, this little mini-scandal [over the Wright letter], that bothered me a lot. Because that was the one thing that I was sure about Chief Nuchia. I could believe what he told me."

Nevertheless, Parker applauds Nuchia for making the department more reflective of the community, including gays.

"He seems really committed to a more diverse police department," says Parker. "I think he wants a first-class, professional police department. And he wants it to reflect the diversity of Houston. But I also think he wants it to be his police department and when he says, 'Jump!" they say, 'How high, sir?'

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