Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo is putting his support behind a request from Harris County’s District Attorney to hire more prosecutors because of what he calls a “perfect storm” of potential crime.
DA Kim Ogg has asked the Harris County Commissioners Court to approve a $20 million increase to her budget to hire 102 new prosecutors. She argues that prosecutors have been handling up to 900 cases at a time since Hurricane Harvey.
Acevedo told Houston Matters that the “perfect storm” exists because “you’ve got not enough prosecutors, so cases aren’t moving quickly.” The chief indicated the shortage of prosecutors is leading to public safety problems, saying “we have judges, criminal court district judges, that are giving low bond and even pr (personal recognizance) bonds on violent criminals.”
“We are sounding the alarm and we’re going to start exposing some of the actions that are happening in the courtroom,” Acevedo said.
Acevedo’s remarks came just hours after he tweeted his support for the district attorney’s budget request. Ogg’s proposal has prompted criticism from criminal justice reform advocates.
The HPD chief also addressed some of that criticism, from groups like the Texas Organizing Project. That group has asked Harris County Commissioners to vote against Ogg’s request. TOP said in a statement that additional prosecutors “will inevitably lead to more convictions and more people behind bars,” while the focus should be on finding solutions that prevent crime and recidivism.
Acevedo told Houston Matters he thinks the activists are confused about what the DA wants to accomplish. He said additional prosecutors would focus on violent offenders, not on people who commit low-level misdemeanors.
Harris County Commissioners are scheduled to vote on Ogg’s request on February 12.