After four and a half years as Bayou City’s number one cop, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo is heading to sunny Florida to lead the Miami Police Department.
Acevedo’s move was made public after an email he sent to HPD officers about his new gig started circulating late Sunday night. His hire as Miami Police Chief was formally announced in a Monday morning press conference in Florida, where Miami Mayor Francis Suarez called Acevedo “the best chief in America.”
He’s heading to a much smaller police department with only 1,300 officers, compared to the 5,300 officers employed by HPD, in a city that’s only 35 square miles large compared to Houston’s 671.
Suarez said that Acevedo will start his new job in the next four to eight weeks since Acevedo requested some buffer time out of respect for Mayor Sylvester Turner.
The ever outspoken Acevedo sure seemed fired-up about the next chapter of his career in his remarks to the Miami media Monday morning.
“In my heart,” Acevedo said, “I knew that my mayor, Sylvester Turner… I knew his time was coming up, and I was contemplating what’s next. Because politics are not in my heart, because as you know, I have no home, I piss off the left and the right to be honest with you… but service is in my heart.”
Turner hired Acevedo in 2016, luring him away from his job as Austin Police Chief, a post he held for over nine years. Since then, the now outgoing chief has earned a reputation for being vocal on Twitter and rarely turned down the opportunity to get in front of a camera.
He publicly took a knee in honor of George Floyd during last summer’s protests after the Houston-native was murdered by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, but still drew sharp criticism for being slow to release bodycam footage of local shootings by police officers and for the number of protesters arrested during last summer’s racial justice demonstrations.
While Acevedo will be remembered for his persistent efforts to ingratiate himself with the community, his tenure atop HPD will always be associated with the fatal Harding Street raid of January 2019, during which HPD officers shot and killed Rhogena Nicholas, Dennis Tuttle and their dog in a chaotic assault on the couple’s home brought about by supposedly falsified evidence concocted by city police officers.
Earlier this year, the family of Rhogena Nicholas sued the City of Houston for civil damages, claiming that HPD officers violated her constitutional civil rights by killing her in the deadly raid.
Acevedo was born in Havana, Cuba, and immigrated to the United States with his family at the age of four. Even though his family didn’t settle down in Florida (they headed to join relatives in California), Acevedo said the Cuban roots he shares with Suarez and Miami City Manager Art Noriega helped convince him to make the jump to the Sunshine State.
“Cubans, one of the things we have, is we can assess people quick… We’re in the people business, relational policing,” Acevedo said, drawing a parallel to his outgoing nature and his philosophy for how cops should do their job.
“It’s about transparency. It’s about respect,” he continued. “It’s about engaging people in the good times so you can build the emotional capital, that’s sure to come, that you’re going to have to draw on in the bad times.”
“And it’s about accountability. Accountability is a two-way street, and when we do that, we’ll build trust,” Acevedo said.
Turner congratulated Acevedo on his new job later Monday morning at City Hall.
“I want to thank Art, and I say that in a very personal sense,” Turner said. “I knew him before I hired him to become police chief… I asked him to come to the city of Houston. He performed at an exceptional level, and he will be missed by many of us in this city.”
“I wish him well, he and his family, and I know he will do an excellent job in Miami with Mayor Suarez,” Turner continued. He then said that an announcement about HPD’s leadership going forward will be made later this week.
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