Houston Mayor Annise Parker recently announced that an independent police oversight board will be appointed to replace the existing Citizens Review Committee. The mayor’s announcement is in response to a heightened concern about police misconduct and brutality.
Negotiations are also ongoing with the police union to replace the current slate of independent examiners. In Houston an officer who is disciplined can file an appeal and have their case reviewed by an independent examiner.
It seems that in Houston, despite the best attempts of the police executive to discipline and in some cases fire offending officers, their efforts are all too often undone by the independent examiners.
Over the past 17 years, hearing examiners have reduced or overturned almost 70 per cent of the cases that came before them.
In a recent case, Police Chief Charles McClelland fired two officers involved in the police beating of a burglary suspect. The case was overturned by the hearing examiners who ordered the officers to be reinstated.
The City is appealing the ruling. If the officers are returned to the force the Chief’s dilemma will be in deciding what to do with officers (i.e. assigning duties) in whom he has lost all faith.
The police union is resisting any change, arguing that the present process is fair and that the reason so many cases are overturned is the result of the police department meting out discipline that is too harsh.
In 2009 Chief McClelland fired 9 officers. All 9 cases were appealed. In four cases the appeals were denied, four resulted in the officer being reinstated, and in one case the appeal with withdrawn by the officer.
The Houston Police Department has 5,400 officers and serves a population of 2.2 million.