Houston city council to vote on new members of HPD's Independent Police Oversight Board

Chaz Miller Image
Wednesday, May 3, 2023
HPD's Independent Oversight board to vote on 7 new members
The Independent Review Board is said to review internal police misconduct by employees of the Houston Police Department, according to the City of Houston's website.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Houston's Independent Police Overview Board is expected to have seven new members after a vote by the city council makes it official.

The City of Houston's website describes the board as one that "reviews internal police misconduct by employees of the Houston Police Department," but it's come under fire in the past.

A 2020 study from Rice's Kinder Institute heavily criticized the board by saying its all-volunteer makeup, inability to open its own investigations, and the fact that the police chief has final say on what to do with their work were all reasons why the board wasn't up to national standards.

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"The department started in 2011," Crystal Okorafor of the City of Houston's Office of Policing Reform and Accountability, said. "It's been revamped by Mayor Turner in 2021, and he gave it a lot more teeth."

Notably, Turner added paid positions to the board and pushed for more diversity. The changes also created Okorafor's job with the city, which is independent from the police department.

The board had no input on what cases to investigate before 2021, as they solely relied on investigating what was given to them by the police department.

The board still can't open an investigation, but Okorafor has that ability thanks to the power afforded to her position.

Okorafor told ABC13 that she chooses which cases to open based on conversations with the board's chair.

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"We review every internal affairs case that comes through," she explained.

Houston's police chief still has the ultimate say in what to do with the board's conclusions.

"He does have final say, but he does have an open-door policy," Okorafor said. "We've been able to find a solution that everyone is happy with."

Fred Maxie, an engineer who has gotten to know Turner through community work, is one of the nominees waiting to be confirmed by the city council.

He said he's glad to have the opportunity to make a difference in Houston - one that benefits citizens and the police department.

"My goal is mainly just to serve, and I just want to make an impact while I'm there," Maxie said. "I think it's important to get someone in here that can see both sides."

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