Mayor Sylvester Turner on Tuesday announced he would sign an executive order to enact some immediate reforms aimed at curtailing police violence, including requiring Houston officers to give verbal warning and exhaust all other options before firing their weapons.
Turner outlined his order, which embraces proposals from the #8cantwait campaign, at the funeral for George Floyd, the former Houston resident whose May 25 death at the hands of Minneapolis police sparked international protests and widespread calls for reform. Turner said he would sign the order Tuesday evening, but that was canceled at the last moment; a spokeswoman said the mayor planned to sign the order Wednesday, but did not explain the delay.
The mayor’s announcement came shortly before dozens of Houstonians urged City Council to reject Turner’s proposed budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, unless millions of dollars are diverted from the police department to other areas.
Though the actual text of Turner’s executive order was not available Tuesday, it will include a ban on chokeholds, require de-escalation, comprehensive use-of-force reporting, mandate that officers intervene when they witness misconduct, “and more,” Turner said on Twitter.
It was not clear whether the order would embrace the remaining recommendations from the #8cantwait project, which claims that departments who adopt the eight measures have fewer uses of force.
HPD already enforces some of those measures. The department’s use-of-force policy from 2015 includes a duty-to-intervene clause and a ban on shooting at moving vehicles, unless the driver is immediately threatening someone’s safety.
The Houston Police Officers’ Union said the department has had a ban on chokeholds for four decades and possibly never used them. It was not immediately clear, however, whether that prohibition is codified in writing.
Joe Gamaldi, president of the union, said he was waiting to comment on Turner’s executive order until the text is released.
Many other police departments already have adopted the #8cantwait measures with little impact to show for it, said Kevin Buckler, a criminal justice professor at the University of Houston-Downtown.
“They’re already used across the country. Perhaps not by every department, but they’re already utilized, and we still arrived at the current state of affairs that we’re at right now,” Buckler said, adding that the campaign “is a very good marketing strategy, but it’s not evidenced-based at all.”
You can see the tweet here. Much of the rest of the story is a later version of the one I blogged about here. In addition to the proposals from various Council members, we also have that forthcoming task force. Based on Professor Buckler’s comments, I’d say that task force needs to recommend that everything we do is quantifiable and aimed at a specific goal – some number of reductions or increases or changes or what have you, which we track with the idea of adjusting the new guidelines or ordinances as needed to achieve those goals. We want change that actually makes a difference, after all.