HCC police chief on leave 'pending an ongoing investigation,' but officials won't say why

Thursday, December 21, 2023
Houston Community College mum about police chief put on leave
Only ABC13 is uncovering an administrative leave placed on the police chief of Houston Community College.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- An ABC13 investigation reveals Houston Community College's police chief is on administrative leave and under investigation, but the school won't say why.

Houston Community College has not answered basic questions like the chief's employment status despite the position being paid by taxpayers. ABC13's Brooke Taylor had to file an open records request, which revealed that Chief Michael Benford has been on administrative leave with pay since October.

HCC has 21 different campuses with thousands and thousands of students, who we aren't sure would have known their police chief was placed on leave without the records request.

In a letter dated Oct. 24, Chief Benford received a letter that stated, "You are being placed on administrative leave with pay pending an ongoing investigation and other related matters."

The letter also states Benford cannot return to any HCC facility, be in contact with any HCC employee, or take action on behalf of HCC without obtaining prior written approval.

Since then, ABC13 has been asking questions. Benford had remained on the website until now. Timothy Ramirez is currently listed as the interim chief.

Now, the question is, why was Benford placed on leave? Well, the school is fighting to keep that information from the public.

HCC sent a letter to Attorney General Ken Paxton in response to that part of our records request, asking whether they're required to disclose that information. The attorney for HCC stated information gathered during an investigation is confidential.

Benford has been the police chief since 2021, and records show he makes $158,000 a year. It is taxpayer money he is still being paid while on leave, despite the public getting no answer as to why.

Benford previously worked as the police chief at the University of Houston-Downtown from 2016 to 2021. Before that, from 2014 to 2016, he worked as HISD police's assistant chief.

ABC13 has previously reached out to Benford, who said he had no comment. Eyewitness News will also submit a letter to the attorney general explaining why the public should know why the chief is under investigation.

For updates on this story, follow Brooke Taylor on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.