Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt is about to get graded by the rank and file, and he’s expecting to see some harsh evaluations.
Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt said he looks forward to reading the results of a survey from rank-and-file officers in the department.
“I really want to know what their issues and concerns are so that we can address them,” he said.
Although he wouldn’t draw conclusions from a survey that has yet to be released, Hurtt seems prepared for results that won’t reflect favorably on him.
“This is not a popularity contest,” he said. “I am in charge of a complex organization, and there are going to be different philosophies on how to handle matters.”
To a degree, Hurtt is correct. Like anyone in a leadership position, his job is not to be liked but to be effective. Some of the feedback he’ll get is going to be uninformative griping. That needs to be filtered out.
But there’s sure to be a lot of useful information in there, including the responses from some of the strongest critics. The question will be what will Hurtt do with that criticism?
“I am encouraged that Chief Hurtt, at least, wants to see what the results are,” [Houston Police Officers Union] executive director Mark Clark said. “Houston police officers for a very long time now have wanted somebody, anybody in a position of authority to listen to what they’ve got to say.”
Clark didn’t know the exact ratio of positive-to-negative comments from the survey but said a “significant number” of officers take HPD officials to task on matters including disciplinary issues and the department’s facial hair policy, which prohibits beards and goatees.
“There was serious, serious questions about how officers were deployed and not having proper backup out on the street,” Clark said.
One detective wrote that long-term planning was rare and that Hurtt “shows a lack of interest, a lack of heart and a lack of passion for the job.”
What I’d like to know is how Hurtt is perceived in comparison to some of his predecessors. I don’t recall Betsy Watson, Sam Nuchia, or C.O. “BAMF” Bradford having particularly cordial relations with the two big police unions. Is Hurtt better, worse, or about the same as any of them from their perspective, and in what ways is he better or worse?
Some of what the HPOU members are complaining about is undoubtedly tied to staffing shortages and policies put forth by Mayor White. A Chron editorial from last week discussed the tension between Hurtt and White’s competing visions. How much of the negativity Hurtt will get is due to things he doesn’t have direct control over?