McClelland to replace Hurtt as HPD Chief

December 30, 2009 3:59:50 PM PST
Houston has a new interim police chief as Executive Assistant Chief Charles McClelland will take the reins as the top cop for the Houston Police Department. Exec. Asst. Chief McClelland is a 32-year veteran of the force. He's in charge of investigative operations. He takes over for outgoing Police Chief Harold Hurtt who has led the department since 2004. He was promoted to his current position of executive assistant chief back in May 2004 by Chief Hurtt.

Chief Hurtt gave his final farewell Wednesday morning and left police headquarters for the very last time around noon. He was, at times, a polarizing figure and his decisions often sparked controversy. Yet most agree, Chief Hurtt was a street cop at heart.

After five and half years as Houston's police chief, Harold Hurtt was known as a fighter and Wednesday he said final goodbyes to the rank and file. Hurtt was known for being good at identifying problems, not so great at getting the support needed to solve them. Police Union President Gary Blankinship, who didn't always see eye-to-eye with the chief, believes Hurtt could have fought harder.

"It's how much passion you have for the job. Clearly the chief of police serves at the pleasure of the mayor and I guess when the mayor is not supporting you for things that cost money, it's hard to go up against the mayor," said Blankinship.

To his credit, Blankinship says Hurtt constantly tackled budget issues, addressed the critical shortage of officers, introduced Tasers and red light cameras and unveiled a new property room amid a scandal involving thefts and missing evidence.

"First of all, I'd say there's never a dull moment. That's for sure," said Chief Hurtt in a February 2007 interview. After 41 years in law enforcement, almost 20 as a police chief in various cities, Hurtt is moving on. He leaves at a time when they are fewer officers on the streets now than when his boss, Mayor Bill White, first took office six years ago.

"I think Chief Hurtt will leave a legacy of professionalism. He was what he was. He said he was going to do things and I think he got those things done," said Houston City Council Member Jarvis Johnson.

With the economy in turmoil and constraints on the city budget, 2009 has been a tough year for fighting crime through November. Overall, crime in Houston is up more than 7 percent, violent crime by 2 percent and property crimes up by 8 percent. Murder, however, was down almost 2 percent.

Chief Hurtt made the decision to step down shortly after Annise Parker was elected mayor.


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