Community reacts to Troy Finner stepping down as Houston police chief: 'A loss to HPD and our city'

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Wednesday, May 8, 2024
Community reacts to Troy Finner stepping down as Houston police chief
Sheriff Ed Gonzalez and former mayor Sylvester Turner were among the members who made remarks about Troy Finner's resignation as Houston police chief.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Several community and law enforcement members have made remarks about Troy Finner's sudden departure as Houston police chief.

"Before you can remove someone who has done an excellent job and liked, you must seek to discredit that person's work and leadership. Those who serve especially in elected positions and leaders who advocate for the greater good of our community need to find their voices," Houston's former mayor, Sylvester Turner, said soon after Finner's retirement was revealed Tuesday night.

He commented further Wednesday morning by stating, "Chief Troy Finner gave 34 plus years of his life to HPD. For the last 3 plus years, he led the largest police force in the Southwest through some challenging and divisive times, and under his direct leadership, crime has trended down. His departure is a loss to HPD and our City."

Mayor John Whitmire announced that Executive Assistant Chief Larry Satterwhite will take on the role of acting police chief.

"I have accepted the retirement of Troy Finner as Chief of Police, and have appointed Larry Satterwhite Acting Chief of Police effective 10:31 p.m. tonight," Whitmire wrote in an email sent to HPD employees. "This decision comes with full confidence in Acting Chief Satterwhite's abilities to lead and uphold the high standards of our department."

Satterwhite had been serving as an executive assistant chief, one of the highest ranks in the department. In that role, he directed the department's field operations. HPD says that position works on crime and traffic issues in the city.

"I hope we'll support the agency, Chief Satterwhite, who most of you know," Whitmire said during city council on Wednesday morning. "I've worked with him for years. He's been on the department for 34 years. He was actually the acting chief when Chief Finner would leave town. I know the department and Houstonians are in good keeping with Chief Satterwhite."

READ MORE: Who is Larry Satterwhite? What to know about new, acting HPD chief after Troy Finner stepped down

So, how did we get here?

Finner had been with the department since 1990 and spent 12 years as a patrol officer. He became police chief in 2021, replacing former chief Art Acevedo.

Finner "retired" from his position amid questions about whether he was aware of a code that suspended more than 260,000 cases years sooner than the timeline he gave to the public.

In February, the now-former chief revealed thousands of sexual assault investigations were suspended due to lack of personnel, which was attached with "Suspended-Lack of Personnel" or "SL" coding.

In the weeks following the mid-February revelation, Finner announced the true scope of the suspended cases - more than 264,000 investigations suspended since 2016 due to a lack of personnel.

While Acevedo served as chief at the beginning of that timeline, ABC13 pressed Finner about when he became aware of the cases and his actions to resolve the unsolved.

During a March 7 news conference, Finner told reporters he was first aware of the code in November 2021 -- a day before the Astroworld tragedy -- and ordered his leaders never to use it again. However, an email 13 Investigates obtained shows he knew of the code being used at least once in 2018.

13 Investigates first reported about that email just hours before Whitmire announced that he accepted Finner's "retirement."

RELATED: 13 Investigates: HPD Chief Finner was emailed about suspended code in 2018

13 Investigates obtained a 2018 email that calls into question when HPD Chief Troy Finner first heard a case was suspended due to lack of staff.

The July 20, 2018, email was addressed to several high-ranking HPD leaders, including Acevedo and Finner, who was an executive assistant chief back then.

The email mentions a specific road rage case marked "Suspended-Lack of Personnel." It details that the case was labeled that way, even though a witness identified a suspect.

Finner responds to the email, saying, "This is unacceptable, look into it and follow up with me."

The email does not flag issues with the suspended code or address how often it is used.

After the report, Finner released a statement, insisting he had no recollection of the email until Tuesday.

"I have always been truthful and have never set out to mislead anyone about anything, including this investigation. Until I was shown the email today, I had no recollection of it. I have since been informed it was already included in the internal investigation. I promised an independent and thorough investigation, and my lack of knowledge of this email serves as proof of my independence," the statement read, in part.

Meanwhile, Acevedo told 13 Investigates he feels horrible for Finner and maintains he knew nothing of the code.

Sources close to the situation told ABC13 reporter Courtney Fischer that the 2018 email was hard for Whitmire to look past.

Other city and county officials also gave their thoughts about Finner's sudden retirement.

"I want to challenge anyone, sitting anywhere, to remember one email back in 2018," councilmember Carolyn Evans-Shabazz said during Wednesday's meeting.

"Wishing a happy retirement to my friend and partner in public safety, Houston Police Chief Troy Finner. It was a true honor to work alongside him. I know I'm not alone when I say that he'll surely be missed," Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said.

"Chief Troy Finner has always treated the men, women, and citizens of Precinct 4 with the utmost respect," Harris County Precinct 4 Constable Mark Herman said Wednesday. "He has always led from the front and stayed in the trenches fighting crime with all law enforcement. We wish him the best and will support him going forward."

ABC13 also spoke to HPOU President Doug Griffith, who said he wished this would have been handled differently and that going forward, Houston needs a chief "who will be honest with the public."

When asked if Satterwire is that person, he said he could be but that he doesn't know the mayor's thinking of how permanent Satterwhite's position is.

"I hate to see HPD Chief Try Finner leave. Chief Finner was an OUTSTANDING dedicated public servant," Rep. Ron Reynolds, the Chair of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus, wrote in a Facebook post. I believe he was thrown under the bus for the mistakes of others."

During Wednesday morning's city council meeting, Mayor Pro Tem Martha Castex-Tatum said she had "mixed opinions on this."

"I'm definitely very disheartened with the news of Chief Finner resigning," council member Edward Pollard said during the meeting. I know there was some controversy regarding suspended reports, but I do think he was truthful."