Good start, now let’s get it going.
Mayor Sylvester Turner on Wednesday endorsed “almost all” the 104 recommendations laid out last week by his Task Force on Policing Reform.
Speaking at a virtual city council meeting, Turner said a few recommendations, which he did not identify, raise questions about the need for state legislative action, and a few others prompt “some concern about where we come up with the money to implement some of the proposals.”
“But, by and large, I’ve read through the entire report and I am overwhelmingly supportive of most of the ideas,” Turner said.
The task force — which laid out an implementation timeline for all of its recommendations — would remain involved in developing the implementation strategy, Turner said.
While the mayor did not specify which items gave him pause, the task force report referred to the need for legislative action on at least one occasion. That involved allowing doctors and health care workers to issue notifications of detention, currently only allowed by law enforcement officers.
Other measures, such as amending disciplinary windows for officers, would require the union to sign off on the changes unless a state law is passed.
That prospect is unlikely. Houston Police Officers’ Union Vice President Douglas Griffith said some of the recommendations, including those regarding discipline, were ill-informed or impractical.
He challenged one proposal to allow supervisors to investigate officers 180 days after learning of alleged misconduct, rather than 180 after it occurred. The so-called “180-day rule” has been a key target for reform advocates.
Officers’ current contract and state law allows supervisors 180 days after discovering misconduct to issue temporary suspensions of up to 15 days. If department leaders want to fire officers, however, the contract requires chiefs to do it within 180 days after the alleged misconduct occurred or if the officer has been indicted.
In its report, the task force said budgetary considerations were beyond its scope, so it did not outline where to find the necessary funds to implement the measures.
“We acknowledge that some of our recommendations will require additional funding and recognize fundraising as a critical step toward implementation. That said, we implore the mayor, city council, and the HPD to explore partnerships, grant applications, and otherwise exhaust other reasonable options before declaring that something cannot be done due to a lack of funding.”
The task force included timelines on how long it believed recommendations should take to be enacted, suggesting HPD and the city implement many within 90 days. Those short-term objectives include creating a way for residents to file complaints online, or for the department to follow up with civilians who had filed complaints. A policy outlining the public release of body camera footage within 30 days of incidents and a new order on long-term patrol assignments were also included in the short-term objectives, among dozens of others.
Proponents of criminal justice reform said they were encouraged by the mayor’s comments but that Turner needed to provide more details on how he would carry out the task force’s recommendations.
“There’s never been a shortage of good ideas about police reform,” ACLU Policy Advocacy Strategist Nicholas Hudson said. “But we need a clear timeline for implementation, and aggressive action from the mayor and council, especially on items in the ‘Justice Can’t Wait’ report.”
See here for the background. My advice is to get the things that can be done quickly as soon as possible, and start building consensus or working with legislators on the rest. If the union is going to object to some things, well, that’s what they’re going to do, but don’t consider that an obstacle. This is a rare chance to make some real progress, and the success of Mayor Turner’s second term will be determined in large part by what he does with this from here.