Mayor’s task force on policing reform releases recommendations

The Mayor’s Task Force on Policing Reform today released a highly anticipated 153-page report with a list of recommendations proposed by the 45 member citizen group.

Led by Chairman Larry Payne, the task force spent months listening to Houstonians and organizations about the type and kind of police department they desire and demand. The task force engaged in extensive research on issues and best practices around the country and received more than 7,000 responses from a community survey.

“In the events of recent months, it is clear in Houston and across the nation that our community, mayor, city council, police chief, officers, and the union must all work together to protect and serve the constitutional rights of all citizens,” Chairman Payne wrote in the report’s introduction.

Payne announced that the report is divided into six sections:

  • Community policing: Integrate respectful, consistent, and meaningful community engagement and input into existing work practices, including recruiting, training, patrolling, and promoting.
  • Independent oversight: Overhaul the current Independent Police Oversight Board to support a full-time, paid administrative and investigative staff, accompanied by a diverse civilian board, to hold the Houston Police Department accountable to a higher standard.
  • Power dynamics: Balance the power dynamics between the Houston Police Department and Houstonians by releasing body-worn camera footage of critical incidents in a consistent and timely manner, further restricting the use of force, treating people with due respect, and committing to transparency by releasing audit and performance data on a regular basis.
  • Crises intervention: Expand existing partnerships between the Houston Police Department, mental health professionals, and social services organizations to lighten the load on officers when responding to vulnerable populations, such as those experiencing mental health crises, domestic violence, human trafficking, substance abuse, and homelessness.
  • Field readiness: Equip and prepare officers for better engagement in the field through initiatives like reviewing and updating officer training, expanding mental health and wellness programs for officers, and instituting a mentorship program.
  • Clear expectations: Set clear and unambiguous expectations for officers so that they feel supported, know exactly what behavior is required, and understand the consequences of their action or inaction.

Here are a few key highlights from the report:

– Improving community engagement, including a three-week externship for police cadets to spend time at various community organizations.

– Overhaul the current Independent Police Oversite Board.

– Requiring the release of body-worn camera footage to the public.

Payne said each section mentions how police reforming must be backed by the community.

“We have worked hard on this being a document that is not going to sit on a shelf. It has actionable items that can be implemented,” Payne said. “We are also going to stay committed to the mayor. As a task force, we are not going away.”

The 104 recommendations are available online. (Click the image below.)

Mayor Turner said he plans to take time to thoroughly review the report before making decisions about implementing any or all of the task force’s recommendations.

“I know people in our community recognize the importance of our police officers, want good policing, accountability, and transparency within the Houston Police Department,” said Mayor Turner. “This is a transformational moment for our city as we seek to improve how policing is done in our community in a time when people are calling for reform and demanding we address racial and social injustices.”