Responding to the political shitstorm stirred up by the Chad Holley video, Mayor Annise Parker this afternoon announced what her office calls a "sweeping package of new initiatives aimed at restoring public trust in the Houston Police Department."
The package includes a new Independent Police Oversight Board, which will replace the Citizens' Review Committee, which was apparently something that existed. Its 20 members, appointed by the mayor, "will have unfettered access to all records and police department data and the full cooperation of HPD. It will review all internal affairs investigations involving allegations of excessive force or the discharge of firearms and other major incidents." (Which makes us wonder -- was the Citizens' Review Committee's access somehow fettered? And if so, who was responsible for the fettering? Will this person or these persons be held accountable?)
Additionally, the Police Advisory Committee has been redubbed the Public Safety Advisory Committee, and will, brace yourself, "hold monthly meetings in various locations throughout the city to obtain citizen input, meet quarterly with the police and fire chiefs and the local Office of Homeland Security to discuss issues affecting public safety and periodically meet with City Council's public safety committee." (We're not sure why the Council's public safety committee wasn't renamed while they were at it, nor are we sure if any of these committees are Blue Ribbon Committees. We hope to God they are, because Houstonians deserve nothing less.)
But that's not all: The city's Office of Inspector General will "serve as confidential ombudsmen to assist citizens in [the] filing of complaints of misconduct against police officers."
Flanked by Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland, State Senator Rodney Ellis and others, Parker said, "I know that the men and women in blue [in] the Houston Police Department by and large do an exemplary job. But in any large organization, there are those who cause problems, there are those who don't follow the rules, there are those who simply get lost." (And by "get lost," we assume she means "descend like a pack of hyenas upon a prone teenage suspect and repeatedly kick the individual without first inspecting the immediate area for surveillance devices.")
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Parker said that as a mother of three, including a teenager, "I understand the desire of citizens to want to know their children are safe in the hands of the Houston Police Department."
McClelland called the incident an "excellent opportunity" to make positive changes in HPD and usher in "a new era of open[ness] and transparency" and "enhance" community relations -- which was one of his major goals upon taking the position last April.
We're encouraged by these steps to improve police-community relations and demand accountability from law enforcement officers, but we're sorta wondering why all of these committees and outside "experts" are necessary to make sure that the Houston Police Department doesn't sweep police brutality under the rug. Shouldn't a police department be expected to run a clean house on its own? Why does Houston need a "sweeping package of new initiatives" to ensure that citizens' civil rights aren't violated? The thing is, there wouldn't have even been a discussion about police brutality had this beating not taken place in direct view of a security camera at Uncle Bob's storage facility.
Just think: If those officers had just moved a few yards to the left before they whaled on a defenseless 15-year-old boy, everyone could've knocked off early on this gorgeous Friday.