Houston officials talk 'de-escalation' training for law enforcement to prevent violent outcomes

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Wednesday, February 22, 2023
Police 'de-escalation' topic of discussion at Houston City Hall
HPD Chief Troy Finner said the $124 million funding, as part of the Law Enforcement De-Escalation Training Act, would help police prevent bad situations from worsening.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Houston police Chief Troy Finner said Tuesday his agency responds to more than 1.1 million calls a year. More than 50,000 of them involve someone having a mental health crisis. But new funding from the federal government could help provide additional resources and training to de-escalate those situations and prevent violent outcomes.

The funding is part of the Law Enforcement De-Escalation Training Act, which will provide $124 million to communities around the country to prevent bad situations from getting worse.

ABC13 saw the worst this weekend.

On Saturday, the Houston Police Department responded to a 26-year-old in crisis. Officers could not de-escalate the situation.

Police said the man attacked two officers with a knife when one opened fire and killed him. The family told ABC13 that night they thought HPD could have done more to prevent a deadly conclusion. Finner said on Saturday the man had a history of mental illness.

READ MORE: Suspect killed after stabbing 2 police officers in the face in southwest Houston, investigators say

On Tuesday, Finner was at City Hall discussing de-escalation with Mayor Sylvester Turner and Texas Sen. John Cornyn as part of an already scheduled roundtable discussion about the senator's legislation, which will provide additional training and resources to law enforcement and communities across the country.

"We're not perfect here, but we strive to be the best that we can be," Finner said.

The idea is to give police the help they need. Around the table, all seemed in agreement that preventing violent conclusions to some law enforcement interactions does not fall on police alone.

"Part of this is to take some of this off of their plate because, as the mayor started out today by saying, we ask our law enforcement officers to do too much," Cornyn said. "This is additional resources that we hope will save lives and will help people get the assistance that they need and protect our law enforcement officials."

RELATED: New bill in Texas Senate would mandate domestic violence training for judges across the state

The funding will go to cities and agencies that apply for federal grants. Those dollars will be spread out over four years for training, resources, and practical exercises.

"But at the same time, as we're getting these types of calls, when people are in crisis, not only do we want to send police," Turner said, "but we also want to send people who are more skilled that help to de-escalate those situations."

As for what happened Saturday, Finner says he is still investigating exactly what happened and if police had the help of a crisis intervention team.

"We all know that sometimes it just doesn't end well, and that's tragic," Finner said. "But, who is to blame? Who knows right now? But we're going to continue to move forward and be the best agency we can be."

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