Turner's new task force for HPD met with skepticism

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- On Wednesday, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced his plan for the city's Task Force on Policing Reform.

"Over the past several weeks we have all listened to a call for police reform and the demand for change," Turner said. "People in our community want good police, accountability and transparency within the Houston Police Department."

Turner said the task force will make recommendations in training, use of force, police oversight, and interactions with the community.

The official charge of the Mayor's Task Force on Policing Reform is to:

  • Review HPD policies and practices relating to the use of force.
  • Review the operation of the IPOB, its effectiveness and recommend what changes, if any, should be made.
  • Body cameras: assess when video footage should or should not be released to the general public; ie: criteria
  • Best practices (model) for crisis diversion (e.g. substance abuse, mental/behavioral issues, homelessness) - evaluate HPD Crisis Intervention Team
  • Assess how well HPD is doing with community policing and what more should be done to build the bond between police and community
  • How to decrease the "overt" presence of law enforcement without adversely affecting safety

"It's a tall order. It's certainly important that people get an opportunity to express their thoughts, provide their opinions, and I know that we will get many. I think, in the end, this will help our city move forward in a very productive fashion," said Turner.

The mayor said he does not want to dictate to members of the task force what they should be making recommendations on specifically.

He has said the group will be tasked with coming up with criteria on when body camera footage from officer-involved shootings should be released.

Laurence "Larry" Payne will chair the 45-member task force. Currently, Payne is the Director of strategic partnerships, civic engagement, and critical conversations for the Houston Public Library.

The other 44 members represent the business community, community activists/organizers to faith leaders to advocates. Mayor Turner also named five special advisors to the task force.

The task force will meet for the first time during the week of July 6 and have up to 90 days to submit its recommendations.

Although calls for police reform have intensified since George Floyd's death last month, some critics of the mayor feel like a task force isn't good enough.

Critics pointed out that the Transition Committee on Criminal Justice made recommendations regarding HPD reform in 2016 as Turner took office for his first term.

"You've seen the outpouring of opinions since the death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and many others. So, anything that was done prior to doesn't really take into account what has taken place in the last several weeks," Turner explained.

READ MORE: Houston police reform task force to be formed by end of June

The mayor said he thinks the point is being missed when people call to disband police departments.

"They want good policing," Turner said. "They want policing with accountability."
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