De-escalation techniques, bans on chokeholds, a duty to intervene and requirements to notify before using deadly force are among new police reforms included in an executive order signed by Mayor Sylvester Turner on June 10.
The reforms, the Houston Police Officer’s Union noted in a recent letter, already fall in line with department policy. The effect of the order, however, codifies them under future chiefs, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said.
“All the rules read today, regardless of whether they’re existing or new ... cannot be changed by a future chief without coming through the mayor’s office, cannot be changed in the dark, cannot be changed overnight,” Acevedo said.
Each of the reforms states that they must be followed by all Houston police officers unless “objectively necessary,” Turner said.
Also included in the order is a ban on no-knock warrants without written approval from the chief of police or an appointee of the chief as well as a district judge.
Houston City Council members who had been calling for reforms supported the order, saying it was the first of many steps the city needs to make toward increasing community trust in policing.
“This is not something we can do in two weeks. We are talking about systems that have been in place for hundreds of years,” Council Member Tiffany Thomas said.
The order came on the same day Houston City Council voted unanimously to approve the $5.1 billion fiscal year 2020-21 budget, keeping police funding intact, which activists protesting city spending said represents an adherence to the status quo.
Over 90% of the police budget is tied to personnel costs in salaries and benefits, which are negotiated during a separate process between the mayor and the Houston Police Officers Union. The police department contact expires Dec. 31.
Calls for reform have gained national momentum in recent weeks following the death of former Houston resident George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.
View the full order below.