The HPD suspended cases situation

I don’t know what to make of this.

A review of sex crimes cases suspended with an internal code citing a lack of personnel has expanded department-wide to include more than 264,000 cases, Police Chief Troy Finner said Monday.

The dropped cases makes up about 10% of the department’s 2.8 million filed since 2016, Finner said. About 100,000 of those are property crimes, he wrote.

Doug Griffith, president of the Houston Police Officers Association, said he was concerned about the latest revelations. The union president said Monday at least three of the department’s division Standard Operating Procedures included directives about when to use the code to close cases.

The divisions included auto theft, vehicular crimes and major assaults and family violence, Griffith said. The major assault guidelines were signed off on by Finner Dec. 1, 2023, Griffith said.


Griffith said employees were instructed they could use the code on misdemeanor cases with little solvability. He said other cases could be suspended using that code, but those could be reopened if someone reaches out to the department seeking charges, Griffith said.

“But that’s incumbent on victims reaching out to authorities, which is a problem,” Griffith said.

Griffith previously said about 2,000 sexual assault cases had been dropped because of the lack of personnel code, before Finner revealed it was closer to 4,000.

This is building on an earlier story about the use of the code on sexual assault cases.

The Houston Police Department’s review into sexual assault investigations revealed the number of closed cases since 2021. Police administrators have launched an investigation to determine who was closing out cases using the code to signify lack of personnel, Griffith said Wednesday, one day before Chief Troy Finner is set to address the cases in a Thursday afternoon news conference. But there’s no reason to believe sexual assault investigators were the only ones who’ve used it, Griffith said.

“We didn’t even know there was such a code,” Griffith said. “We don’t know how many other types of crimes were cleared this way. It’s a large investigation to see how many and what types of cases this affects.”

Griffith didn’t have specific numbers of investigators in the sexual assault crimes unit, but said most investigative units were down between 10% to 15%. He explained that the department provides codes to close cases in many different instances – perhaps a complainant wants to withdraw charges, or maybe investigators run out of leads in another case, Griffith said. But lack of manpower shouldn’t be a reason, he argued.

The department investigated between 20,000 and 23,000 felony cases each year since 2021.

Griffith said he suspects someone started intentionally using the code and then, for whatever reason, a supervisor allowed it to continue.


In January, a new group, the Harris County Sexual Assault Response Team, released a report showing of the more than 2,200 sexual assaults reported to the county’s largest law enforcement agencies over nearly two years, 60 led to convictions while hundreds more remain unresolved.

The response team was created in 2021 after state lawmakers passed a law requiring counties to establish unified groups that share resources and information about local sex crimes. The law, Senate Bill 476, requires the team to create a protocol on how sexual assaults should be investigated and an annual report detailing the number of sexual assaults reported, investigated and prosecuted in a given year.

Sonia Corrales, deputy CEO for the Houston Area Women’s Center and one of the members of the new response team, said she wasn’t sure whether the report is connected to Finner’s announcement. But she said she is hopeful that through the review, leaders are doing what they can to make sure victims of sexual assault get the help they need.

“I hope by looking at this, we can get to the root of the problem and address the issue,” she said.

I mean, I can totally understand how HPD could get overwhelmed at times and do something like this as a matter of triage. The fact that the use of this code continued long after investigators were told to stop doesn’t say much for oversight within the department. That the solve rate for sexual assaults was barely three percent is mind-boggling, and we wouldn’t even know that figure if it hadn’t been for that new state law. This revelation unfortunately explains a lot, not in a good way.

As bad as all this is, at least now we know about it and can try to do something about it. The Mayor is going to spend more money on HPD because that’s what he promised during his campaign, and that should have some effect. But if we’re not using our police resources effectively and we’re not tracking results and holding them accountable when those results are unsatisfactory, then we’re not going to get anything different. Up to Mayor Whitmire and HPD leadership what happens from here.

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7 Responses to The HPD suspended cases situation

  1. Raj Salhotra says:

    My question is yes you could use this for triage for a short period but I would hope there would be an internal discussion asking for more funds; 10% of cases just dropped is appalling.

  2. Jason Hochman says:

    HPD has always had an abysmally low clearance rate. HPD shot an unarmed Black man to death in April 2023, with no consequences. HPD allows drivers to run amok around town. It takes several hours for someone to come out to take a report. It has been bad and has only gotten worse. Yet Whitmire thinks that the current chief is doing a great job. He was a handmaid for the failed Chief Arturo administration. Everyone says I am full of drivel but look at what has happened to Chief Arturo when he tried to go out into the more logical world. Also the move to defund the police has only caused more crime, worse police behavior, slower response, less training.

  3. Ignoring 260,000 cases, including 4,000 sexual assault cases, is bad enough. The lack of transparency and accountability (so far) for this failure makes it even worse. If HPD was hiding something huge like this from crime victims, elected officials, and the public, what else is being hidden inside HPD? HPD claims this practice was implemented due to a lack of manpower. Is that completely accurate, or was it also caused by the failure of HPD administrators to properly allocate existing manpower? How do we know? If nothing else, why didn’t administrators request and use targeted overtime to follow up on those sexual assault cases? HPD’s budget has grown over the years, but more money obviously does not equal better results.

    I believe it is time for the City of Houston to commission a comprehensive study of HPD. Let a new set of eyes examine HPD, from top to bottom, and then make recommendations for improvement in structure, resource and personnel allocation, efficiency, performance, transparency, and accountability. Perhaps Chris Hollins, assisted by some outside technical experts, could participate in that study. Once the study is complete, we need Mayor Whitmire to implement the recommendations and quickly rebuild public trust in HPD. I know some crime victims believe police officers just show up to take a report and then do very little else to actually investigate the crime or bring the offender to justice. It’s stories like this that reinforce those beliefs.

  4. Jonathan Freeman says:

    HPD, HCSO, the constables, and all the other dozens of police agencies have never investigated every case reported to them. Ever. A quick search shows they marked many cases as lacking leads to follow up upon or sent a postcard to a complaining witness before throwing in their files. The only difference is that this time it involves sex crimes, family violence crimes, gang crimes, and a few others that we know of at this writing.

    Some of the TV channels are expanding coverage to compare to the Sheriff’s numbers and we find the clearance rates of the HCSO is far worse, less than 7% of sex crimes get charges filed for them compared to HPD’s 40%. “According to the report, from 2022 to Aug. 31, 2023, HPD received 1,519 reports of sexual assault, and of those, 1,328 (87%) were investigated. In 2022, HCSO received 1,107 sexual offense-related reports, and of those, 169 cases were investigated. Of those investigated, 77 cases resulted in criminal charges.” Clearance rates for the Sheriff tend to be half that of HPD in other special divisions, nevermind charges being filed.

    The call for HPD to defund by a couple of councilmen was shot down too. Their budget is $1.6 billion dollars and has soared under previous mayors. Whatever funding was withheld from other areas flowed into HPD’s coffers and given the revenue cap, this just isn’t sustainable. I hope this latest audit or internal investigation shows the sex cases not investigated were some of the kind that the county codes differently, like the complaining witness not wanting to press charges or missing elements of the crimes but clearly the county has a far worse problem so why is Houston the sole focus on this?

    It seems to me that this all came out rather suddenly, on a Friday just before close of regular hours which seems fishy. Almost everything being said amounts to speculation, social media full of conspiracy theories how Police Chief Finner is being ambushed because someone else in HPD wants the job or someone who left/was fired wants payback. Doesn’t Chief Finner deserve at least a few weeks to outline such a longstanding practice given he has over 30 years of honorable service to us? There is clearly more going on behind the scenes and someone is trying to discredit an otherwise scandal free, good man, to pressure Mayor Whitmire to fire him.

    I agree with Mr. Summerlin that HPD needs to be audited in detail, preferably by outsiders with little to gain from misleading the public. The numbers are presented to sound bad but compared to the county, 87% versus 15% investigated and 7% versus 40% with charges filed, maybe the headlines need to applaud Chief Finner. I want all such cases investigated. Family members who’ve been attacked in the past deserve it, but joining the mob over just a little data designed to discredit a single man isn’t right.

  5. Johnathan, pointing out that the HCSO stats are much worse makes me even more concerned for local crime victims and the general public. Talk about a broken criminal justice system.

    Anyway, I agree with you. While some elected officials go through staff like toilet paper, I am a firm believer in giving dedicated, hardworking people a second chance. To that end, I support Mayor Whitmire’s decision to give Chief Finner an opportunity to redeem himself. Chief Finner has served Houston residents well for many years – that has to count for something.

  6. Of course, if the current investigation or a future audit reveals even more systemic issues, a change in HPD leadership might be in order. Let’s see if Chief Finner can right the ship.

  7. Jonathan Freeman says:

    Greg, that was at least part of my point. The system is broken when the largest policing organization in the area skips 10% of it’s cases simply for manpower and the second largest is so terrible at such investigations we generally avoid discussing it. Lest the usual haters chime in to point fingers that those in charge of these organizations are Democrats, the county’s numbers have always been much worse than the city’s. Is it any wonder most victims don’t report these crimes or refuse to prosecute?

    Jason parrots the right wing talking points well enough but each is just as out of touch coming from him. Nobody defunded police here, none of the police agencies has been able to recruit like they used to, the city’s clearance rates are typically at least double that of the county according to both their records, and the best our local journalists can do is play gotcha games by withholding the context of each issue.

    Chief Finner demoted two of his newest appointees, assistant police chiefs already. We find out the downside of their pension changes is those command positions have been part of a revolving door, not unlike David mentioned awhile back regarding the firefighters. Meanwhile, the police union points out that HPD’s standard procedures specify using that code and have for years. Given the sheer disparity in numbers with the county, it strikes me that these codes being used probably include some of the same reasons the county gives us for their failure in investigating sex crimes, not being able to contact victims, victims unwilling to be dragged through the process, and other things not tied to manpower.

    Police Chief Finner inherited this practice according to every source out there. He and other police chiefs have indicated manpower shortages for as long as I can remember. The matter is being investigated in detail so we should know whether one or both of the fired assistants disregarded the order to end the practice of using the code. I’ve met Chief Finner. He seems earnest in wanting to improve the community on a scale some of his out of town predecessors never did. Give him time to provide context and a plan to fix it. Only then should his status be questioned.

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