In wake of scandal, recommendations delivered for HPD reform

A significant step taken in the quest for accountability and corrective action as Mayor John Whitmire's independent review committee delivered a slate of preliminary recommendations aimed at addressing the Houston Police Department's case abandonment scandal.

Three months after news broke of more than a quarter million criminal incidents Houston Police simply never investigated, Whitmire is still aghast.  

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: HPD Chief Finner involved in 2018 email using 'suspended lack of personnel' code

"It's just incomprehensible, should never have been allowed and cannot be allowed that you had violent incidents, sexual assault victims, family violence victims, and they don't get to them. That is just not acceptable, should have never been. As tragic as it is, hopefully it's a wake up call," said Whitmire.

Part of that "wake up" call is an independent review committee, which appeared before Council to deliver preliminary findings after focusing their inquiry on 9,167 sexual assault and family violence cases assigned and later discarded by the Special Victims Division.

FOX 26 Houston is now on the FOX LOCAL app available through Apple TV, Amazon FireTV, Roku, Google Android TV, and Vizio!

"We observed inconsistent methods of case management between the divisions with very little checks and balances," said Christine Nowak, a former prosecutor and member of the committee.

 Among the recommendations:

 -No "suspension" of criminal investigations without specific Command review and approval.

- Adoption of clear, written directives communicating department-wide policy

- Mandatory recorded minutes of all critical executive and command staff meetings.

- Mandatory 55 hours of victim support training for members of the Special Victims Unit delivered by the Houston Area Women's Center.

While the operational critique was welcome, some on Council wanted more.

"Who is going to be held accountable for actually using the code and not following up on these particular cases?" asked Council Member Martha Castex Tatum.

Whitmire and Committee Chair Ellen Cohen confirmed assessment of blame and if warranted, discipline is the responsibility of HPD, which is conducting an internal affairs investigation into the uninvestigated cases.