Pastors and civil rights activists call for Houston police oversight board changes

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- In the wake of the Breonna Taylor saga, a group of Houston pastors and activists is calling for a major change to the Houston Police Department Civilian Review Board.

While a civilian review board already exists, Retired HPD officer and local civil rights activist Shelby Stewart said the group wants a new type of board, one with subpoena power to look at cases of police-involved deaths and questionable police interactions.

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"If what happened to George Floyd in Minneapolis happened in Houston, Texas, and there was no cell phone video, you would never know how he died," Steward said.

The group is proposing a board that's made up entirely of members of civil rights organizations, Texas Southern University and the University of Houston.

The idea includes giving the board the power to subpoena documents and administrative letters, interview witnesses, complainants, suspects and even officers if those officers are willing to talk.

The board would have the power to make decisions, including officer terminations, according to the group's plan.

In a news conference Thursday, activists said the trust between brown and Black citizens and the police is broken and a truly independent board can help fix that.

"I believe this plan that Mr. Stewart come up with is something we desperately need," retired HPD Sergeant Kenneth Perkins said. "We want our children to continue to live. We want our police officers to continue to live. We want the people in the courthouse to uphold the right decision."

ABC13 has reached out to Houston police for their thoughts on the proposal.

A representative with Mayor Sylvester Turner's office responded to ABC13's request early Thursday afternoon.

"The mayor does not have a response at this time. However, Mayor Turner continues to focus on issues related to policing reform," the representative said.

On June 10, Turner signed an Executive Order on the use of deadly force.

On June 24, he appointed a Policing Reforms Task Force to review Houston Police Department policies and practices.

The Task Force will soon send its final recommendations to Mayor Turner for review.
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