Police reform battle comes to Houston's City Council

On June 2nd, more than 60,000 marched in downtown Houston demanding justice for George Floyd and drastic, immediate reform of local police.

23 days later, hundreds of those voices used an on-line meeting of Houston’s City Council’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee to repeat their demand for radical change including extensive defunding and eventual abolition of the Houston Police Department.

“We fight today for abolition, not reform. We fight for real change not a task force with recommendations the Mayor will once again ignore,” said Araceli Garcia.
“What we are finding is that many of our local leaders are bought and paid for by the police unions and I know many of you have taken their money so we have to ask the question who do you really represent?” said Conrad Ari.
“The Black and Latinx communities in Houston do not trust the Houston Police Department at all,” said Samantha May.

“The police system is racist it needs to be abolished,” said Christine Casas.

Harsh but representative examples of the more than 200 citizens who signed up to speak.
Caller after caller requested money be shifted from policing into low-income housing and social services. 
Many also complained about accountability, insisting Houston’s current civilian review board is “cloaked in secrecy” and needs to be replaced with an elected panel capable of issuing subpoenas.

Well before the onslaught of citizen testimony began, Mike Knox, a Councilmember, and former police officer pushed back.
“In the criminal justice system and the legal system we have in this country you are innocent until proven guilty unless you are a policeman,” said Knox.

“We are here to push for good, sound and thoughtful policies, listen to residents and a voice for your future,” said Council Member Abby Kamin, who chairs the committee. 
Kamin reminded all giving testimony that while the committee can listen, it can’t put the reforms they seek on the Council agenda.

In the City of Houston, that power lies solely with Mayor Sylvester Turner.