Houston 101

For the First Time Ever, Houston Will Have a Hispanic Woman as Interim Police Chief

On Thursday, Mayor Sylvester Turner announced that Executive Assistant Chief Martha Montalvo will take over as interim chief of the Houston Police Department when current chief Charles McClelland steps down at the end of this month. 

Citing her 35 years of experience as a Houston police officer and the fact that she is already supervising 120 people and five divisions, Turner said that “it’s going to be very difficult to find anyone else who has the credentials that match Martha Montalvo.”

“She’s an excellent police officer — credentials galore,” Turner said. “That’s No. 1. She has come up the ranks over 35 years.”

Montalvo entered the police academy in January 1980, not long after becoming a U.S. citizen at age 18 — she and her family had immigrated to the U.S. from Ecuador in 1963. Montalvo, 56, is now the first Hispanic officer ever to hold the post and the second woman appointed to the interim chief position. Throughout her decades-long career with HPD, she’s done everything from patrol to homicide investigations. In her most recent position, she was tasked with overseeing the department's internal affairs, psychological services, crime analysis and the training academy.

Montalvo had been executive assistant chief since 2004 and had worked closely with Chief McClelland all throughout, Turner said, noting their close collaboration would allow for a seamless transition. “I think it speaks well for the city to already have the personnel available when you can have the continuity without any major interruptions,” he said.

Despite the high praise, Turner demurred when asked whether this put Montalvo in a better position to snag the job permanently. He said the search committee is going to need time to select the best possible chief, as McClelland retires on February 26.

But regardless of how long, exactly, Montalvo remains chief, her appointment comes at a pretty critical time for the city. Turner said her input will factor heavily as he and other city departments work to balance the budget before the end of June. "I look forward to working with her on solutions that generate the cost savings we need without impacting the police protection our residents need," he said.