Houston Police Department
|Houston Police Department|
|Patch of the Houston Police Department.|
|Badge of the Houston Police Department.|
|Legal personality||Governmental: Government agency|
The Houston Police Department (HPD) is the primary law enforcement agency serving the City of Houston, Texas, United States and some surrounding areas. Its headquarters are at 1200 Travis in Downtown Houston.
HPD's jurisdiction often overlaps with several other law enforcement agencies, among them the Harris County Sheriff's Office and the Harris County Constable Precincts. HPD is the largest municipal police department in Texas.
According to the HPD's website, "The mission of the Houston Police Department is to enhance the quality of life in the City of Houston by working cooperatively with the public and within the framework of the U.S. Constitution to enforce the laws, preserve the peace, reduce fear and provide for a safe environment."
The current chief of police is Charles McClelland.
Main article: History of the Houston Police Department
Houston was founded by brothers Augustus and John Kirby Allen in 1836 and incorporated as a city the next year, 1837. As the city quickly grew, so did the need for a cohesive law enforcement agency. It was in 1841 that the Houston Police Department was founded. The first HPD badge issued bore the number "1."
The early part of the 20th century was a time of enormous growth for both Houston and for the Houston Police Department. Due to growing traffic concerns in downtown Houston, the HPD purchased its first automobile in 1910 and created its first traffic squad during that same year. Eleven years later, in 1921, the HPD installed the city's first traffic light. This traffic light was manually operated until 1927, when automatic traffic lights were installed.
As Houston became a larger metropolis throughout the 1930s and 1940s, the HPD found itself growing and acquiring more technology to keep up with the city's fast pace. The first homicide division was established in 1930. During that same year, the HPD purchased newer weapons to arm their officers: standard issue .44 caliber revolvers and two Thompson submachine guns. In 1939, the department proudly presented its first police academy class. The Houston Police Officers Association (HPOA) was created in 1945. This organization later became the Houston Police Officers Union.
Throughout the turbulent 1960s and 1970s, the HPD also experienced its own highs and lows. The first HPD bomb squad was created in 1966. The next year, 1967, saw massive riots at Texas Southern University. During the riots, one officer was killed and nearly 500 students were arrested. It was as a result of these riots that the still-active Community Relations Division was created within the HPD. In 1970, the Helicopter Patrol Division was created with three leased helicopters. That year also marked the department's first purchase of bulletproof vests for their officers. The HPD's first Special Weapons and Tactical Squad (SWAT) was formed in 1975.
In 1982, the Houston Police Department appointed its first African-American chief of police, Lee P. Brown. Brown served as chief from 1982 to 1990 and later became the City of Houston's first African-American mayor in 1998. While Brown was considered a successful chief, he also earned the unflattering moniker "Out of Town Brown" for his many lengthy trips away from Houston during his tenure.
Brown's appointment was controversial from the start. Traditional HPD officers frowned upon Brown because he was an outsider from Atlanta, Georgia where he was the police commissioner; to become the police chief in Houston, an officer has to advance through the rank and file although the "good old boy" culture was prevalent.
The HPD paved a new road again in 1990 when Mayor Kathy Whitmire appointed Elizabeth Watson as the first female chief of police. Elizabeth Watson served from 1990 to 1992 and was followed by Sam Nuchia, who served as police chief from 1992 to 1997. In 1997, Clarence O. Bradford was appointed as chief. In 2002, Bradford was indicted and later acquitted of perjury charges, stemming from an incident in which he allegedly lied under oath about cursing fellow officers. Since late 2007, Bradford was the Democratic nominee for Harris County District Attorney where he will be facing a Republican opponent (either Kelly Siegler or Patricia Lykos; the incumbent, Charles A. 'Chuck' Rosenthal, resigned prior to withdrawing his candidacy due to an e-mail scandal). Bradford faced Patricia Lykos and lost the election; he later campaigned in 2009 for a Houston City Council at-large council seat vacated by Ronald C. Green, who ran for controller. Bradford's city council seat tenure as of 2015 is term limited under the City of Houston charter where he is listed as a viable candidate for Mayor of the City of Houston since the incumbent, Annise Parker, is in her final term.
Since 1992, the Houston City Marshal's division, Houston Airport Police, and Houston Park Police were absorbed into HPD. In early 2004, during Mayor Bill White's first term in office, HPD absorbed the Neighborhood Protection division from the City of Houston Planning Department, which was renamed the Neighborhood Protection Corps in 2005. Annise Parker, Mayor White's successor, moved the Neighborhood Protection Corps into the Department of Neighborhoods when the new city division was established in August 2011 - the NPC was renamed as the Inspections and Public Service division of the Department of Neighborhoods.
In November 2002, the CBS local TV station KHOU began broadcasting a multi-part investigation into the accuracy of the HPD Crime Lab's findings. Particularly of interest to the reporters were criminal cases that involved DNA analysis and serological (body fluid) testing. Night after night journalists David Raziq, Anna Werner and Chris Henao presented case after case in which the lab's work was dangerously sloppy or just plain wrong and may have been sending the innocent to prison while letting the guilty go free. As a result of those broadcasts, at the end of the week the Houston Police Department declared they would have a team of independent scientists audit the lab and its procedures. However, the audit's findings were so troublesome that one month later,in mid- December, HPD closed the DNA section of the laboratory. Not only did the audit bolster KHOU's report but also found that samples were contaminated and the lab's files were very poorly maintained. The audit revealed that a section of the lab's roof was leaking into sample-containment areas, lab technicians were seriously undereducated or unqualified for their jobs, samples had been incorrectly tagged, and samples had been contaminated through improper handling. Worse, many people had been convicted and sent to prison based upon the evidence contained in the crime lab. The New York Times asked the question, "Worst Crime Lab in the Country?" in a March 2003 article.
Beginning in early 2003, the HPD Crime Lab began cooperating with outside DNA testing facilities to review criminal cases involving cases or convictions associated with Crime Lab evidence. However this again came as a result of some prompting investigatory work done by the TV station KHOU. Not long after their first broadcasts, reporters David Raziq, Anna Werner and Chris Henao got an e-mail from a local mother. She was desperate. She told them that her son, Josiah Sutton, had been tried for rape in 1999 and found guilty based upon HPD Crime Lab testing. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison. So KHOU began to take an intensive look at the Sutton case. Raziq and Werner analyzed the HPD lab's DNA report with the help of DNA expert Bill Thompson of the University of California-Irvine. They found terrible and obvious mistakes in the report that the lab should have known about. When the reporters presented this new information to the local jurists who had helped convict Sutton, they were mortified. Not long after that broadcast, the HPD agreed to an immediate retest of the DNA evidence in the Sutton case. Those tests showed the DNA collected in the case did not belong to Sutton. He was released from prison in March 2003 and given a full pardon in 2004.
As a result of the scandal, nine Crime Lab technicians were disciplined with suspensions and one analyst was terminated. However, that analyst was fully reinstated to her previous position in January 2004, less than one month after her December 2003 termination. Many HPD supervisors and Houston residents called for more stringent disciplinary actions against the Crime Lab employees. However, the city panel responsible for disciplining the lab technicians repeatedly resisted these arguments and instead reduced the employees' punishments. Irma Rios was hired in 2003 as Lab Director, replacing Interim Lab Director Frank Fitzpatrick.
In May 2005, the Houston Police Department announced that with much effort and coordination on their part, they had received national accreditation through the American Society of Crime Lab Directors (ASCLD). The ASCLD stated that the lab had met or exceeded standards for accreditation in all areas except DNA. Through independent research and testing, it was determined in January 2006 that of 1,100 samples reviewed, 40% of DNA samples and 23% of blood evidence samples had serious problems. On June 11, 2007, the HPD crime lab reported its DNA section had gained full accreditation from ASCLD.
The Safe Clear program was implemented by Mayor Bill White on January 1, 2005 as a joint venture between the City of Houston and the Houston Police Department. The intention of the program was to decrease the freeway accidents and traffic jams that occurred due to stalled drivers. Select tow truck companies across the city were authorized to tow a stalled vehicle as soon as possible after being notified by an HPD officer. Persons having their vehicle towed were provided with a Motorist's Bill of Rights and were required to pay a sum to the City of Houston after the towing had taken place.
The program was initially very unpopular among Houston residents. Frequent complaints were that the program unfairly punished lower-income motorists by enforcing a high towing fee and that the program could potentially damage vehicles that required special tow trucks and equipment to be safely towed away. Other complaints were that stranded motorists did not have an option to choose their own garage. The city and the HPD addressed these concerns with program improvements that provided funds to pay for short tows that removed stalled vehicles from the freeway and then allowed drivers to choose their own garage and tow companies once they were safely off the freeway.
Studies released in February 2006 indicate that Safe Clear has been successful during its fledgling year. There were 1,533 fewer freeway accidents in 2005, a decrease of 10.4% since Safe Clear's implementation.
Red light cameras
In December 2004, Chief Hurtt (when he was the former chief of Oxnard, CA) stated that when the city of Oxnard installed their red light cameras, it has claimed that red light running decreased dramatically although Houston was in the process of favoring red light camera enforcement. The history of red light camera enforcement goes back to the 78th Texas Legislature[when?] where this measure was voted down although a transportation bill authored by a member of the Texas House of Representatives had an inclusion of red light camera enforcement. In December 2004, the Houston City Council unanimously voted for red light camera enforcement although Texas State Representative Gary Elkins (R-TX) introduced legislation to deter Houston from amending its city charter for the red light camera rule to be enforced. This measure failed in the Texas Senate although in 2005, four intersections in downtown Houston were used as testbeds for red light camera equipment. After a contract was approved, the enforcement went online September 1, 2006 to which those running a red light (there are 50 locations) are fined a $75 civil fine as opposed to a $225 moving violation which goes against the vehicle operator.
There are fifty intersections with red light cameras in the city with cameras (twenty intersections were added where dual cameras were installed). A majority of them are located at a thoroughfare at a freeway intersection - primarily in the Galleria and southwest Houston. During a Houston City Council meeting on 6.11.08, council member James Rodriguez suggested the installation of an additional 200 cameras.
A voter referendum during the 2010 Texas gubernatorial elections to eliminate red-light cameras passed. The referendum that passed in November 2010 was later invalidated by U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes June 17, 2011 citing that the referendum violated the city charter despite the contract with American Traffic Solutions, which provided the camera equipment. The cameras were expected to be reactivated after midnight on July 24, 2011; plans were underway to have this judicial ruling heard by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
Mobility Response Team
On July 2, 2007, Mayor Bill White started a new program called the "Mobility Response Team". Staffed by traffic enforcement officers patrol within the loop clearing traffic problems. They report traffic light outages, issue parking citations, help clear and direct traffic around minor accidents, or traffic jams during special events in the area. The duties will only involve surface streets and not the freeways and will be using scooters and police cruisers fitted with yellow flashing lights rather than the typical red and blue lights.
This was part of the mayor's plan to improve mobility in city and is the first of its kind in the United States. The city's mobility response team cost $1.8 million a year to operate.
Overtime and "Hot Spot" patrol concentration
Hurtt to spend an $24 million on overtime pay through 2010. The money would continue to bolster an understaffed force as police commanders try to increase their ranks. The overtime that is planned would be about equal to 500,000 police hours of which would help bolster various departments including, vice, Westside patrol and traffic enforcement, among other areas including a new 60-member crime reduction unit that will serve as a citywide tactical squad.
The police chief said the effort will put more officers to work immediately in troubled areas of the city such as Third Ward and Acres Homes, where the bodies of seven women have been found in the past two years.
The crime rate, particularly for violent offenses, since the latter part of 2005, when an influx of hurricane evacuees increased the city's population by more than 100,000, and incidents spiked in certain neighborhoods.
The Houston Police Department is headed by a chief of police appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the city council. This position is aided by 4 executive assistant chiefs, 10 assistant chiefs, 44 captains, approximately 220 lieutenants and 900 sergeants. HPD headquarters, 1200 Travis, is in Downtown Houston. The current chief of police is C.A. McClelland, a former executive assistant chief from the department.
HPD divides the city into 13 patrol divisions. Each division is divided into one or more districts and each district is divided further into one or more beats. Stations are operated and staffed 24 hours a day. HPD also operates 29 store front locations throughout the city. These store fronts are not staffed 24 hours a day, and generally open at either 7:00 or 8:00 AM, and close at 5:00 PM. Downtown Houston is patrolled by the Special Operations Division District 1, and the Houston Airport System facilities have their own divisions.
A map of all stations and store front locations can be found at the HPD web site: PDF map of stations, divisions, districts and beats.
 Office of the Chief of Police
The Houston Police Department administrative offices and investigative offices are at 1200 Travis in Downtown Houston. The 61 Riesner site houses the HPD central patrol office, the municipal jail, and the transportation department. The 33 Artesia facility houses the communication and maintenance facilities. In December 2013 the city announced that it has plans to build a new headquarters for HPD and the city courts.
Substations and storefronts
By the end of 1989 the police department had established 19 storefronts and planned to open 10 additional storefronts in 1990.
As of 2015, the department uses a large number of Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptors as their main fleet of patrol vehicles which was first ordered in 1996 replacing the Chevrolet Caprice 9C1 (used between 1988 and in patrol service until 2004 (replacing the Ford LTD Crown Victoria squads to 1987 along with M-bodied Mopars (primarily the Plymouth Gran Fury (both R amd M platform) last used in 1989)). They have Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor models from dating from 1999 to 2011. Since Ford no longer produces the "crown vic" (procurement of the Crown Vic ended in April 2011 when the orders were filled), The department has chosen to phase in the Chevy Tahoe PPV as the successor to the Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor. The department is continuing to test new Chevy Caprice PPV models and Ford Taurus Interceptors (including the fifth-generation Explorer) as well - the test mules as of 2015 have been integrated into the mainstream vehicle fleet. It also uses pickup trucks from the Big Three, such as the Chevrolet Silverado, Ford F150, and Dodge Ram for their Truck Enforcement Unit. There is also a small fleet of Dodge Chargers and Chevrolet Camaros, which are mainly used as "stealth traffic patrol vehicles" (which is part of the Traffic Enforcement division). The stealth vehicles are plain white police cars with a slicktop roof and gray, reflective "HOUSTON POLICE" graphics on the side as well as on the front bumper, and hidden emergency lights that are driven by uniformed officers. The Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor is also used in this manner - as of late 2011 the stealth patrol vehicles are now painted black. The stealth squads have been supplemented with 14 Ford Taurus Police Interceptors in early 2014 (painted black). Solo (motorcycle) officers use Harley-Davidson motorcycles. The patrol vehicle livery, painted white with blue lettered graphics dating back to 1999 (which replaced the Columbia Blue livery last used in 1998 and retired a decade later), is being phased out for a black and white color scheme where 100 vehicles are painted from $60,000 earmarked from asset forfeiture funds (under HPD policy the previous livery is still used in service until official retirement). HPD squads are usually retired when the vehicle reaches 100,000 miles - some squads dating over 10 model years old which are no longer used for patrol duty are usually reassigned either as bait squads (HPD will park an unmanned squad in a high crime area or illegal dumping site) or the Mobility Response Division - the older HPD fleet used by Mobility Response have been retired and replaced with Ford F150 extended cab pickup trucks from the Truck Enforcement Unit.
The Houston Police Helicopter Division celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2010. The unit was formed with three leased Schweizer 269B helicopters and has flown almost exclusively Schweizer or McDonnell Douglas helicopters. With 16 helicopters, the division is the second largest air support unit in the United States. In 2008 the department acquired new MD500E helicopters. The department also has Schweizer 300 helicopters for training.
The helicopter division patrols about a Script error: No such module "convert". area. HPD has two helicopters in the air for up to 21 hours a day. All pilots and tactical flight officers are sworn Houston police officers.
Most Houston police officers now carry SIG Sauer P229, SIG Sauer P226, SIG Sauer P220, Glock 22, Glock 23 or the Smith & Wesson M&P40 .40 (S&W) caliber semi-automatic handguns. They are also armed with X26 Tasers. Tenured officers whose handguns are "grandfathered in" are still allowed to carry their weapons after the mandated .40 (S&W) requirement. Chief Charles McClelland, carries a Colt 1911 Mk. IV Government Model as his sidearm. Officers are also allowed to carry a AR-15 rifle, Ruger Mini-14 rifle, Remington 870 shotgun, Benelli M1 Super 90 shotgun and a M2 Super 90 shotgun. The SWAT unit uses several kinds of automatic weapons, and was the first local law enforcement agency in the United States to adopt the FN P90.
As of November 2013, HPD has allowed officers to carry pistols chambered in .45ACP. The Glock 21, Sig Sauer 227, and Smith & Wesson M&P 45 are approved sidearms for uniformed officers. Plainclothes officers may carry the Glock 30 and Smith & Wesson M&P 45c. Also in 2013, HPD has begun to issue the Taser X2 in place of the Taser X26.
The Academy, field training, and mentor program
The Houston Police Department operates a non-residential, Monday through Friday police academy from which all cadets must graduate in order to become Houston police officers.
Cadet classes last approximately six months and consist of the basic peace officer course as required by the Texas Commission of Law Enforcement (TCOLE) and HPD specific instruction. In the past, HPD has held lateral classes for officers from other agencies to become HPD officers. However, HPD no longer conducts such classes.
Cadets are required to pass HPD instruction in academics, firearms, driving, physical training, and defensive tactics.
Probationary police officers (PPOs) select which available training station they will go to based on their Academy class rankings.
The following patrol stations are considered training stations:
The following patrol stations are not considered training stations:
The Field Training Program consists of six phases which occur in the following sequence:
PPOs that successfully complete Phase 4 are not required to continue onto Phase 5 and 6. PPOs that are required to continue onto Phase 5 are given remedial training in the category or categories that they are deemed deficient in. If a PPO fails Phase 6, they are disqualified from becoming a police officer, and must reapply to the department. Phase 6 is required to ensure that they have corrected the deficiency.
After completing the Field Training Program, PPOs are partnered with mentor officers for approximately 4 months. The Mentor Program is not a graded or pass/fail program. Instead, it is designed to give PPOs additional guidance before they are allowed to patrol on their own after their probationary period.
The probationary period for PPOs last for one year from the date that they were hired on as cadets. At their one-year anniversary, officers become civil service protected.
Officers select their permanent assignments based on Academy class rank. Officers must serve in their permanent assignment for at least one year before they can transfer to another division.
New sergeants and lieutenants receive leadership in-service training colloquially known as going to "Sergeant School" and "Lieutenant School", respectively.
Newly promoted sergeants must undergo a separate field training program. They are trained for 3 weeks on one shift and then another 3 weeks on another shift. They are then evaluated for 1 week on one shift and then for another week on another shift. This training is designed to ensure that they can perform effectively as new supervisors.
New sergeants pick available training and permanent assignments based on their ranking on their promotion list.
Demand for use of Vietnamese-speaking officers increased in the 1980s as the city's Vietnamese population increased. By 1997, according to Sergeant Bill Weaver, in addition to English and Spanish, HPD had officers who had fluency in Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, and Vietnamese. HPD has a dispatch system tracking officers speaking languages other than English and Spanish.
These are the current ranks of the Houston Police Department:
Those with the rank of sergeant or above are supervisors and are issued gold badges whereas officers are issued silver badges.
Promotion to sergeant through captain all occur via a civil service formula that factors into account performance on the written examination for the respective rank, assessment score, years of service, and level of higher education or 4 years of military service. Officers are eligible to take the sergeant's promotion exam after 5 years of service. Sergeants and lieutenants are eligible to take the promotion exam of the next higher rank after 2 years of service in their current rank. Candidates for lieutenant must hold at least 65 college hours or an associate degree. Candidates for captain must hold at least a bachelor's degree.
Assistant chiefs and executive assistant chiefs are appointed by the chief with the approval of the mayor. Such individuals must hold at least a master's degree and have 5 years of HPD service.
It is not required to move through every rank below to achieve a higher rank. For example, many officers promote directly to sergeant without ever being senior officers. Also, many assistant chiefs are promoted directly from the rank of lieutenant. Councilman C.O. Bradford was promoted to assistant chief from the rank of sergeant. Jack Heard was promoted to chief from the rank of sergeant. It is entirely possible to become chief as an outsider such as in the case of Lee Brown, who went on to become mayor, and Harold Hurtt.
Defunct ranks include detective, inspector, and deputy chief. In the mid 1980s, all active duty detectives were reclassified to sergeants. Originally, officers could choose to promote to detective (investigator) or sergeant (supervisor) which were both immediately below lieutenant.
George Seber was promoted to assistant chief in either 1953 or 1954 and was second in command of the department. However, that rank ended when he left in 1969. Inspectors were then the second highest ranking and Chief Pappy Bond converted that rank to deputy chief. After the rank of assistant chief was re-instituted in the mid 1970s, the deputy chief rank was third highest for a time. Circa 1990, the rank of deputy chief was abolished. In 1998, the executive assistant chief rank was created, making it the second highest rank.
Supervisors may also be appointed under certain circumstances to act in the next higher rank during an absence from duty of their supervisor. For example, a patrol sergeant might be appointed as the acting lieutenant (shift commander) if there would be no other lieutenants on duty within that division. Per policy, officers cannot be appointed as acting sergeants (supervisors).
Since the establishment of the Houston Police Department, 113 officers have died in the line of duty. The following list also contains officers from the Houston Airport Police Department and the Houston City Marshal's Office, which were merged into HPD.[when?]
The causes of death are as follows:
Breakdown of the makeup of the rank and file of HPD:
In September 2010, Officer Tracie Bell was sentenced to sixteen years in prison for stealing over $100,000 from American Red Cross funds earmarked for survivors of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Bell and another officer contracted with the charity to run a basketball camp for young people displaced by the storms. They inflated the number of persons they claimed attended in order to gain additional funds.
In April 2011, Sergeant Ruben Trejo crashed his private vehicle into a school bus while driving to work. Tests showed he had twice the legal limit of alcohol in his blood. Sergeant Trejo was fired.
Darrin DeWayne Thomas
In August 2013, Officer Darrin DeWayne Thomas pleaded guilty to the theft of $700. Thomas was caught in an October 2010 sting operation where he thought he had been left with the money unobserved. He was sentenced to two years of probation and agreed to surrender his Texas peace officer's license. After he finishes his period of probation, he will have no criminal record.
Joe Campos Torres
Main article: Joe Campos Torres
Joe Campos Torres (1954 - May 5, 1977) was a 23-year-old Vietnam veteran who was arrested for disorderly conduct at a bar in Houston's predominantly Hispanic East End neighborhood.[when?] Six Houston police officers took Torres to a spot called “The Hole” next to Buffalo Bayou and beat him. The officers then took Torres to the city jail, where they were ordered to take him to the hospital. Instead of taking Torres to the hospital like they were told, the officers brought him back to the banks of Buffalo Bayou, where he was pushed into the water. Torres’ body was found two days later.
Chad Holley Beating
Main article: Chad Holley
Chad Holley was an Elsik High School sophomore at the time of his arrest[when?] as an alleged burglary suspect, which was preceded by, what some say, was an abuse by HPD. He was eventually found guilty and sentenced to probation until he turned 18. The incident also resulted in 12 officers disciplined, fired, or charged. All appealed the decisions. Officer Andrew Blomberg, the first of four officers to go on trial, has been acquitted of charges of "Official Oppression"
In August 2011, press reports indicated that the department held more than 7,000 rape kits that had never been tested. Some of these kits dated back twenty years.
In October 2012, Office Abraham Joseph was sentenced to life in prison for raping a handcuffed woman in the back of his police car. During the sentencing phase of the trial, two other women came forward to claim the policeman also raped them.
Shooting of a double amputee
In June 2013, a grand jury refused to indict Officer Matthew Marin after he shot and killed Brian C. Claunch on 22 September 2012. Claunch, who was mentally ill and confined to a wheelchair threatened a police officer with a ballpoint pen. Marin then killed him.
Adan Jimenez Carranza
In October 2013, Officer Adan Jimenez Carranza plead guilty to "attempted sexual assault" for raping a woman in the back of his patrol car after investigating a minor traffic accident. He was sentenced to ten years in prison and twenty years on the state's sex offender registry. Carranza could be eligible for parole in six months.
Breakdown of the types of academic degrees held by HPD members:
HPD Major Awards
Radio Unit Identifiers
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