Houston City Council approved an ordinance Jan. 24 increasing the maximum contract amount for legal services between the city and Beck Redden LLP, which is representing the city in a lawsuit stemming from the 2019 Harding Street raid.

What happened

The contract relates to the lawsuit filed against the city of Houston and Art Acevedo, the former Houston police chief.
  • The city council previously approved a maximum contract of $1.25 million in April 2021.
  • The ordinance was amended Jan. 24 to increase the contract amount by $1.7 million.
  • The total cost of the maximum contract is now $2.95 million.
According to the council agenda, the additional funding is expected to cover expenses to complete the remainder of Phase 1 as well as Phase 2 services, if needed.

Phase 1 includes the legal services. Phase 2 includes subsequent services, such as trial preparation and trial.

Phase 1 has "presented unexpected challenges,” which are leading to the need in an increase to the contract amount, according to a document prepared by City Attorney Arturo Michel.

City Council approved the ordinance 15-1, with council member Tiffany Thomas voting against it.

The backstory

The lawsuit stems from a botched 2019 Houston Police Department narcotics raid that led to the deaths of Southeast Houston couple Dennis Tuttle and Rhogena Nicholas.

According to previous Community Impact coverage, an internal investigation determined the no-knock raid that killed the couple was based on faulty evidence.

The incident, known as the Harding Street raid, resulted in the indictment of several Houston police officers, including Acevedo.

“This was a unique situation that happened [in Houston],” Michel said during the Jan. 24 meeting. “It’s the city’s contention that this was an officer who was simply lying and misleading, but to prevent such a thing in the future, or to put better measures in place, we did what lawyers call subsequent remedial measures.”

Subsequent remedial measures, according to Cornell Law, are measures that are taken that would have made an earlier injury or harm less likely to occur.

The action taken

In 2020, Acevedo and the Houston Police Department made changes to the no-knock warrant policy.

According to the Office of Justice Programs, a no-knock warrant is a search warrant authorizing police officers to enter a premise without first knocking and announcing their presence or purpose prior to entering the location.

Three changes were made to the no-knock warrant policy.
  • The Houston Police Department’s chief of police must approve a no-knock warrant prior to execution.
  • A district court judge must give written consent and sign off on a no-knock warrant.
  • HPD’s Special Weapons and Tactics Detail will execute a no-knock warrant in replacement of the investigative team.
“We talk about trust with the community and law enforcement, and this was a tragedy where even law enforcement officers were injured as well, so we don’t want to see that happen again,” council member Joaquin Martinez said. “I understand that the administration has taken some steps to ensure that we don’t see things like this happen in our neighborhoods.”

Also of note

Acevedo left the Houston Police Department in 2021 to lead the Miami police department.

According to Community Impact, he was recently tapped to oversee the Austin Police Department as an interim assistant city manager. However, Acevedo withdrew from the position several days later.