I came onto the Houston Police Department in 1990 in class No. 142. During my entire career I have been incredibly proud of the department and consider it one of the best police departments in the nation.
I can recall times when other departments would look to Houston and ask us to help train other departments. We have led the nation with our innovative homeless outreach and mental health response teams (CIRT). I have always considered myself a proactive officer being in the Gang Task Force, Divisional Gang Unit, and the Tact Team at Southeast.
I know firsthand that proactive policing is necessary to keep crime rates down and the community safe. If it were not for great proactive patrol officers and line level Tac and Gang units, the City of Houston would have been crime ridden years ago.
Now, with all the calls for police reform, proactive policing is slowly dying. Cities across the country have pulled back their proactive units or enacted policies that greatly reduce the effectiveness of actual police work. From very restrictive use-of-force policies to no-chase policies, many cities are changing the way in which police officers are allowed to do their jobs.
Between the defunding of departments to restrictive policies, It is no surprise that crime rates are quickly going up in every major city in America. This had led to increased retirements and low recruiting levels across the nation as officers feel disrespected and undervalued.
We are truly blessed here in Houston, as we have been spared from these ridiculous calls to defund or “reimagine” our department. In fact, the mayor has allocated more money for the department for an extra academy class and for overtime to help with the crime spikes. Just like some other cities, crime in Houston can be directly linked to the courts and judges not doing their jobs, not the officers.
But this also brings into question our ability to do proactive policing. Proactive policing in our department has slowed and I believe this is a combination of issues, the first being that we do not want to get into trouble for just doing our jobs. This is directly related to our current issues regarding “accountability” and the departments’ investigation of IAD complaints.
When the department is more concerned over how we talk to a criminal or whether we are taking our seatbelt off too early than the fundamental aspects of a use-of-force complaint, then we will continue to have an erosion of proactive policing in our department. This also has a big impact on morale around the department.
The next – and probably the biggest detriment to policing – is the combination of bail reform and the criminal court judges. When we have violent offenders constantly released back onto the streets time and time again, it emboldens these offenders.
Our last four shootings have involved officers being fired upon and I truly believe that they feel that offenders are not being held accountable for their actions.
I believe that we will continue to see a slowing of proactive policing and an erosion of our profession for the near future.
I pray that we will again see the day that criminals are held accountable, and officers are allowed to do their jobs without fear of IAD or the courts!