HPD says over 81K reports reviewed of the 264K cases suspended due to lack of personnel

81,650 of HPD's 264K cases have been reviewed, Chief Finner says
Houston police Chief Troy Finner shared the latest numbers on their investigation into the department's thousands of suspended cases.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Houston police Chief Troy Finner spoke more on where the investigation into the department's thousands of suspended cases stands on Thursday.

It was ABC13 that first brought forth the news that more than 1,100 rape kits were never adequately investigated by the Houston Police Department. Those kits are connected to the nearly 4,017 sexual assault suspended incident reports.

ABC13 learned during Thursday's press conference that of the HPD's 264,000 suspended cases, 81,650 cases have been reviewed. That means someone has read the report and attempted to contact a victim.

It was also discovered that 26,000 cases were correctly suspended, but the wrong code was used.

One homicide case was reportedly among those suspended but initially coded as a failure to stop and render aid case.

HPD said that of the 4,107 sexual assault cases, 3,948 have been reviewed. The vast majority - 3,079 - have been inactivated with no workable leads, officials said, meaning that the department's taken the investigation as far as it can.

"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 on Thursday.

ABC13 has been working to answer where the "suspended due to lack of personnel" code came from and why it was created in the first place.

Last week, 13 Investigates learned of a July 2021 letter from a sergeant to then-Executive Chief Matt Slinkard stating: "A couple weeks ago I mentioned the RMS disposition code of Suspended - Lack of personnel that was being used by investigative divisions. I mentioned the optics of how the use of this code may give the public the wrong impression as to how a variety of cases are handled."

The letter to Slinkard went on to say the code was first created in 2016 as a way "to capture the number of cases with workable leads we were unable to assign due to workforce shortages" to justify additional investigators.

"Some dumb individual said, 'Well, we can't get to them, so let's just say we don't have the staff.' Wrong. You sound the alarm like we are today," Houston Mayor John Whitmire said, speaking last month about the code's creation.

RELATED REPORT: HPD confirms 1,100 rape kits from suspended cases were tested, with 96 DNA database hits

Sources tell 13 Investigates that Finner never saw the letter in July 2021. He also said he didn't learn about the code until November of that year and instructed staff to stop using it then.

Over the years, 1,147 rape kits were collected by officials. As part of an automatic process, they were sent to the Houston Forensic Science Center, tested, and results emailed to police. All those kits were uploaded to a national DNA database, and dozens of matched profiles were already in the system.

HPD said that in addition to the 1,147 rape kits previously tested over the years - an additional 5,058 reports were sent to the forensics team for testing.

Houston Area Women's Center deputy CEO Sonia Corrales said now is the time to hold accountable the systems that failed these survivors.

"It's also the responsibility of the police department to fully investigate their case to get all the evidence, all the elements," Corrales said.

Next year, a new system is set to be in place to prevent cases and evidence from sitting untouched. The Sexual Assault Response Team will be made up of police, community, and victim advocates, and come 2025, they will start reviewing Harris County sexual assault cases to prevent this from happening again.

Finner said that after two months of nonstop investigating, he sees the new information in a positive light.

SEE ALSO: 13 Investigates what's happened since HPD's 'suspended' code was identified as an issue a decade ago

As an investigation continues into the suspension of 260,000 HPD cases, new details revealed city council members sounded the alarm on this 10 years ago.