Houston Area Women's Center to provide training for HPD following suspended cases investigation

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Thursday, May 30, 2024
Houston Area Women's Center to provide training for HPD following suspended cases investigation
The Houston Area Women's Center and HPD are partnering amid the department's suspended cases investigation, some of which were tied to sex assaults.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- As the Houston Police Department continues to grapple with fallout from its suspended cases scandal, the agency is partnering with the Houston Area Women's Center for training.

HPD revealed in February more than a quarter of a million cases filed by crime victims since 2016 were suspended because of inadequate staffing. The cases were labeled with a "Suspended - Lack of Personnel" code.

According to then-Chief Troy Finner, 4,000 of those cases were sexual assault reports.

In the months that followed, HPD said that it launched and completed an investigation into how and when the code was created as well as when it was brought to Finner's attention.

But by early May, Finner retired and the investigation was reopened.

Executive Assistant Chief Larry Satterwhite is serving as acting police chief.

As part of the probe, an independent review panel was tasked with looking into HPD's handling of the suspended cases.

The group, who met for the first time in March, recommended working with HAWC to review and update HPD's victim notification protocols. It also recommended mandatory HAWC survivor-centered, trauma-informed training for all members of HPD's Special Victims Division.

HAWC works with survivors of sexual and domestic assault.

"We've been given a lot of verbal assurances. What I do believe is clear, and this report made clear, is that there are systematic issues that HPD needs to address and it's multi-faceted," Emilee Whitehurst, HAWC President and CEO, said.

"I don't think the root of this issue was an act of disdain for survivors or a lack of intent to do right by them," Whitehurst continued. "There are data management issues, there are departmental silos, any big organization is going to deal with those, so I think the remedy is going to be a longer-term process."

On Wednesday, HAWC shared more insight into what the training they're providing will look like.

It will include 55 hours of training, some of which will be focused on how to understand various trauma responses in survivors and how to talk about incidents without re-traumatizing any of the survivors.

"I think our role here today is to reinforce to the greater community that holding HPD accountable also means expecting genuine collaboration," Whitehurst said. "Had we had an ongoing genuine collaboration across all the systems, I don't think this would have happened in this same way. It's bigger than HPD. That is not to say there's not real accountability that needs to be laid at HPD's feet."

Whitehurst said that HAWC met with Satterwhite last week to discuss the training recommendations.

"I can tell he's aggrieved that any survivor has had to experience a situation where HPD failed them. I don't think he denies that. And I also think he's very committed to making sure that no longer happens," she said of the acting police chief.

A commander in HPD's Special Victims Division spoke to ABC13 Wednesday, confirming that those in her division will be held accountable in implementing the training, although she did not get specific about exactly how this will be done.

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

HPD Suspended Cases Coverage: