Council Questions Police Brutality
by: Laurie Johnson, May 5, 2010 8:05:00 pm
Houston police officers are accused of using excessive force in two different cases over the past two months. One incident at the end of March was caught on surveillance tape, in which several officers are accused of beating a 15-year-old burglary suspect.
A separate April incident is under investigation in which officers allegedly used excessive force against a Chinese diplomat who failed to pull over for a traffic stop.
Councilmember Al Hoang says he concerned that there's too little oversight in cases of alleged brutality and he says the city needs to empower the Citizens Review Committee as an outside source of investigation.
"They have to have some more power some way, somehow, to make sure that this kind of thing is not going to happen again. No more excessive force by the HPD to the citizens. And if we did not receive a DVD like that, I think this matter is going to be ignored."
But Mayor Annise Parker was quick to refute that idea, saying there are no attempts to hide what's happening.
"Any allegations of incidents like this would not be ignored. What is different about this one is that we received this video evidence from a citizen and we immediately responded to it."
The District Attorney's Office is investigating the incident involving the teenager. There's also an internal HPD review under way and eight officers have been relieved of duty pending the outcome of those investigations.
Councilmember C.O. Bradford is a former chief of police at HPD and a 31-year veteran of the force. He urged fellow councilmembers and residents not to jump to conclusions.
"It is not by coincidence that the Houston Police Department has not been the subject of a Justice Department decree or oversight in the last 30 years, while most other major departments in the country have been."
That said, in the 1970s and early '80s, Houston did have a reputation for turning a blind eye to police brutality. But Mayor Parker says there's no reason to believe the current cases are systemic in the department and no more action can be taken until details from the DA's investigation are released.