Chief Hurtt Says Numbers Back His Case

HPD Chief Harold Hurtt, KUHF File Photo.
Houston Police Chief Harold Hurtt is fighting back against allegations that he's too strict and heavy-handed with discipline, pointing to numbers that show he's been easier on his police officers than previous chiefs. Houston Public Jack Williams reports.

Click to ListenThe numbers show that even though the number of officers fired has increased slightly since Chief Hurtt was hired in early 2004, most other forms of discipline have dropped significantly, things like written reprimands and suspensions. HPD Chief Counsel Craig Ferrell says the numbers don't lie.

"This chief has given out less discipline to officers than any chief in the last 20 years of the Houston Police Department. I've had the privilege of working for several of our previous chiefs and Chief Hurtt's amount of formal discipline given to officers is half that of all previous chiefs."

Under Chief Clarence Bradford in 2003, there were a total of 1681 discipline cases. Under Chief Hurtt in 2005, his first full year on the job, there were 829 discipline cases. Ferrell says Hurtt's hallmark has been the equal treatment officers, both those in his command staff and those on the street.

"If you mess up, it doesn't matter whether you're a member of his command staff, a member of the union or just an officer not affiliated with any group. If you messed up, you're going to have to face the consequences and if you don't mess up, the chief's going to protect you, give you good policy and training and support your efforts and if all you do is make a mistake, guess what, he's not going to lower the hammer on you, and that's what the officers asked for and that's what they got."

Hurtt says it's no surprise that some officers aren't happy and says that's usually the case when a new boss arrives.

"The issue here is when you have change in an organization, any organization and specifically a police organization, you're going to have people, sometimes they're doing to disagree if they feel that, well, this is better for me, but if it's going to cost me a little more work or if it's going to cause me to do some things that I really don't like doing, but we got to get the job done, and I'm responsible to see that they get the job done."

He says he's still waiting to review copies of each of the surveys taken, about 2000 in all. There are a total of about 4700 officers on the force.

"If there's a perception that we're not meeting the officer's expectations it is a priority with us because we have a tremendous job and responsibility to do and we all need to be on the same page to get that job done."

Leaders of the Police Officers Union weren't available for comment.

Bio photo of Jack Williams

Jack Williams

Director of News Programming

News Director Jack Williams has been with Houston Public Radio since August of 2000. He's also a reporter and anchor for Houston Public Radio's local All Things Considered segments...