Wednesday afternoon, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, who is also president of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, a professional organization of police executives representing the largest cities in the United States and Canada, held a press conference to discuss the death of Houston native George Floyd that occurred in the custody of the Minneapolis Police Department on May 26.
Earlier Wednesday morning Acevedo, along with other police chiefs around the nation, wasted no time in condemning the unconventional “bad policing” as seen from a cell phone video taken by a bystander who filmed officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for minutes, despite Floyd pleading repeatedly, “I can’t breathe.”
Public protests Wednesday later led to riots in South Minneapolis as Mayor Jacob Frey questioned why the four police officers involved, who were swiftly terminated by Chief Medaria Arradondo, had not been arrested and charged, according to local outlet The Star Tribune. The city reportedly asked for support from the National Guard to combat the riots that followed in south Minneapolis. Similar protests have occurred in Los Angeles and Memphis overnight.
In his press conference, Acevedo referenced the 1992 Los Angeles riots, which he was suited up for, stating, “There are no winners when we start burning things down and rioting.” Acevedo warned that while First Amendment activity will always be supported, criminal activity will not be tolerated.
Acevedo acknowledged the six recent officer-involved shootings in Houston, and how each incident is looked at critically from a legal standpoint but also from a learning one. He said it was important for the community to register that the incident in Minneapolis did not happen quickly in the middle of several other things occurring that police had to deal with. Instead it was just one officer with his knee on a man's neck, while other officers stood nearby.
And he pointed out, due to the difference in state laws, the HPD isn’t able to terminate officers within a 24-hour period, he said.
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Acevedo mentioned the Harding Street raid that occurred in late January 2019, that has since led to two former HPD officers being indicted, stating, “We have to be vigilant and stand up against bad policing, and at the same time celebrate good policing.” Acevedo noted the recent increase in mental health calls, suicide calls, and domestic violence and stated the HPD will begin to release more mental distress encounters on social media in order to provide context to the public in an effort to show the good and the bad.
Acevedo said he had spoken with Houston Police Academy trainers and staff prior to the press conference about the use of force on the back of an individual’s neck, including choke holds, telling them these tactics are unacceptable unless an officer is in a fight for his or her life.
He said he was heartened to see police chiefs across the country condemning the police action that led to George Floyd's death.
Regarding the investigation into the April 21 HPD shooting of Nicholas Chavez, who was recorded from a cell phone video as on his knees when shot, Acevedo said he expects the investigation to be completed no later than June 10. Acevedo said he initiated discussions with the local FBI office, that monitors all officer-involved shootings, and has given them everything they have asked for.