13 Investigates: HPD chief says 900 sidelined sex crimes had workable leads

Thursday, April 11, 2024
HPD chief says 900 sidelined sex crimes had workable leads
Houston Police Chief Troy Finner said the department has reviewed a third of all incident reports that were suspended due to lack of staff.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Houston Police Department Chief Troy Finner said on Thursday there are workable leads for more than 900 sex crimes that were sidelined because of an improper code citing a lack of personnel.

"As we work through, you may find some good news and you may find more bad news, but the fact is, I made a promise to everyone that we're going to work through each and every one of those incident reports, so that's what we're doing," Finner said during a news conference on Thursday.

In February, HPD announced more than 264,000 incident reports were improperly marked with a code labeled as "suspended" due to "lack of personnel."

On Thursday, Finner said that the department reviewed a third of all incident reports that were suspended, and at least five new charges for family violence cases have been filed.

He would not provide a number for how many suspects have been arrested overall in connection with those once-suspended cases.

He said 95 pieces of DNA evidence collected in those suspended cases had a positive hit in CODIS, a national database connecting DNA from victims to a known suspect or another case.

But, he said, in 51 cases, the victim didn't want to move forward, a suspect has already been charged, or police cannot find the victim. 13 Investigates doesn't know if that would have been the case had these incidents not been sidelined.

Finner has said he told his staff to stop using the "suspended - lack of personnel" code when he learned about it in November 2021. However, citing an open Internal Affairs Division investigation, he has not provided any documentation for how he instructed staff to stop using it.

According to HPD's General Order 100-01, ABC13 knows that the police chief can make policy and procedure changes through written orders that are then sent to all HPD officers and staff.

13 Investigates' Kevin Ozebek pressed Finner on why a written order wasn't issued after the chief learned about the code.

"We'll speak to all that and more, and I promise you, upon the completion of the (internal affairs investigation), that's part of it. We'll speak to it," Finner said. "We'll speak to it. OK. Gotta trust me on that on that one."

While Finner said he can't speak to the IAD investigation, last week he named at least one person who he called a "target" and "witness."

James Jones, Finner's policy officer, submitted his resignation paperwork nearly two weeks ago, and his last day will be Friday.

13 Investigates asked Finner on Thursday if he could say how many people are targets in the investigation, but he would not answer.

"I can't," Finner said. "I don't even know that number."

He said the IAD investigation is expected to be completed as early as this month. But, regardless of the results, Finner said the core issue of lack of personnel remains a concern for HPD.

"We need resources. We need more officers, more investigators, more civilian staff to help us move forward," Finner said. "I want to be truthful to our community. We cannot - we don't have the staff to investigate each and every crime that's reported in our city. However, we will investigate every violent crime against persons."

HPD is asking victims whose contact information has changed since the time of their report to call (713) 308-1180 or email specialvictimsreport@houstonpolice.org.

Contact 13 Investigates

Do you think your case was mishandled by HPD? Or are you an HPD whistleblower who wants to talk anonymously? Fill out the form below. (On mobile? You can open our form by tapping here.)