With HPD in middle of scandal, chief job may be hard to fill

Jessica Willey Image
Thursday, May 9, 2024
Finding next permanent HPD chief might not be easy, expert says
An acting police chief has been installed, but will that person remain there? Will Houston police look out of the city for the next person?

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The last time the Houston Police Department had an acting police chief was in 2016.

The permanent job took nine months to fill and the department was not in turmoil.

A day into a new administration at HPD in the middle of a scandal, there are questions about how long it will take for a permanent chief to be named.

"It's premature to talk about the process of selection," Mayor John Whitmire told reporters after Wednesday's city council meeting.

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On Wednesday afternoon, the man who took over following the embattled Troy Finner's retirement told the public a little about himself and said he is honored to serve in the new role, knowing it may not be permanent.

"When an agency goes though something like this, there's a strong desire to bring someone from the outside," Acting Chief Larry Satterwhite said. "It would be great to be chief, but I understand the real world."

And that real world includes the scandal involving 260,000 incident reports that were not investigated due to a "lack of personnel" and the Internal Affairs investigation that has followed. The department still lacks significant manpower, and an independent review committee is still in the middle of their work.

There may be no outside interest in the job until HPD gets its house in order, so to speak, said Rice University Political Science Professor Bob Stein.

"You're not going to hire anybody until you clean that up," Stein said. "I have some real doubts these men and women won't be hesitant to take the job, other than on an interim basis, until the mayor decides what to do about this problem."

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Whitmire said he has no timeline and will consider both internal and external candidates. He does not plan on using an advisory committee, he said, and will base the decision on "talking to council" and "listening to Houstonians," his experience, contacts, proven records and recommendations.

In the end, City Council approves the mayor's appointment.

READ MORE: Questions linger about diversity among future HPD leadership after Chief Finner's forced retirement

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