At a news briefing earlier today, Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland appeared sympathetic to those in the community who are upset that the officers involved in the alleged beating of a handcuffed teenaged burglary suspect, which was caught on tape, were only charged with misdemeanors.
In the end, though, the chief essentially punted all responsibility to the DA's office when asked his opinion on the grand jury's decision not to deliver harsher felony charges.
"I understand their frustration," said McClelland, who terminated the four officers who were indicted, plus another three who were allegedly involved. "There is no tougher action that I can do than to fire an individual."
McClelland said he will not reveal what he really thinks about the charges, which include official oppression and violating the civil rights of a prisoner, but said for his part, he canned seven officers and suspended another five for two days because of policy violations that his detectives uncovered during their investigation.
The seven officers were fired for official oppression and for violating the department's polices on reporting incidents, the use of force and treatment of suspects. The other five officers, McClelland said, were suspended for more minor violations such as failure to document on a police report and failure to report a police car accident.
Once again calling the surveillance tape which apparently captured the alleged March 24 beating of 16-year-old Chad Holley "disturbing," McClelland admitted it had initially been his opinion that the tape should only be withheld from the public until the grand jury reached its decision. But now, he essentially said, his opinion was not the one that mattered.
"I am not going to go against the DA's wishes," he said.
When asked about comparisons between the tape of Rodney King being stomped by Los Angeles police in 1991, which made its way to the public, and the tape allegedly showing HPD officers hitting Holley, McClelland said, "The King tape was shown over and over and caused a change of venue. We certainly do not want that happening here."
While talk of the Holley case dominated the briefing, McClelland was able to squeeze in a few other items.
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-- Starting Friday, HPD will increase its presence and step up DWI enforcement until July 5. This will include numerous "no-refusal" days. McClelland said that half of all traffic deaths involve booze. "We're not proud of this," he said, "but Texas leads the nation."
-- McClelland wants to remind everyone on the road that when they see a police car of fire truck with emergency lights on, pull over. Calling it a "serious problem," McClelland said that many officers and drivers get hurt because the driver forgets the law requires them to pull over.
-- Compared to last year at this time, said McClelland, violent crime is down 7.7 percent. Non-violent crime however, is up 1 percent.
--And finally, one reporter asked McClelland what HPD's policy is regarding its officers using Facebook and other social media to broadcast racist and threatening remarks, to which the chief responded, it would not be the "first time a person was disciplined for this type of behavior."