13 Investigates: Chief pledges change to policing, camera rules after 8th officer-involved shooting

UPDATE: We reported this piece on Friday before protests began. As the protest spread across the downtown Houston, we held it, but want to share it this weekend. Houston's police chief willingly admits there is work to be done in Houston and all over the country to improve police-community relations. As the nation mourns George Floyd's death, Houston is in the midst of a large spike in both violent crime and officer-involved shootings. While those shootings have been overshadowed by recent events elsewhere, they are not being ignored inside HPD and changes are being made.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- During an interview inside Houston Police Department headquarters Friday afternoon, Chief Art Acevedo told 13 Investigates it is time for a change in the city's policing, and he's not waiting.

Starting Friday night, Acevedo said he would mandate two-officer patrols in parts of the city. A change designed to increase officer safety and slow down decision making in critical moments. The chief is also contemplating changes to HPD policy on releasing body worn camera videos, telling Ted Oberg, "transparency breeds trust."

The news came nearly 12 hours after HPD's seventh and eighth officer-involved shootings. Acevedo started his day early Friday morning at a scene on Dumfies Street. HPD says a man shot an officer after a brief chase. The officer returned fire striking the suspect, who is expected to live.

A short time later on Cullen Street, an HPD officer had two suspects detained when police says a bystander rushed the officer and attacked him with a pipe. That officer fired at the suspect, who is also expected to live.

The incident prompted Acevedo to tell reporters at the early morning scene, "there's something going on in our country, in our city with people just attacking an officer."

What that something is, is hard to figure out. Each of the eight officer-involved shootings are unique and each will be investigated by HPD and the district attorney before a grand jury will decide on charges. But, the shootings happened as the city comes out of two months of COVID-19 quarantine and record unemployment that came with it.

The Houston murder rate is 50 percent higher this year than last year at this time. And, in the wake of George Floyd's death in Minneapolis, decades of frustration with police all over our country are once again boiling over.

"Clearly there is some mistrust," Oberg told Acevedo hours after the overnight incidents.

"That mistrust is not from today. It is historical mistrust. And in the history of policing, there are a lot of ugly incidents. Houston is not immune from that," Acevedo replied.
Body-worn cameras were supposed to help some of that by opening up the lens so the rest of us can see what officers do. Almost all Houston patrol officers wear them. The cameras have captured details of the recent incidents, including last night's.

Acevedo watched it this morning. HPD Internal Affairs investigators and the team from the DA's office will review the footage, and Acevedo has shared some with families of the victims. But, the public has not seen the video, not now and maybe not ever, unless an officer is charged or if the department chooses to release it.

"Is it time to show Houstonians more of how you come to your conclusions?" Oberg asked.

"Absolutely," the chief replied. "I've talked to the DA about that today and we're going to come up with a plan here because I think transparency breeds trust."

Oberg asked, "How soon does that change come?"

"I am in conversation with the DA and we will have some more conversation early next week and come back and make a decision."

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