The city is selecting the replacement for Chief Art Acevedo, who announced March 14 that he is leaving the department to take the position of chief of the Miami Police Department.
"From natural disasters to citywide celebration, he has never hesitated to stand with the city of Houston in times of celebration and crisis," Turner said.
Turner declined to comment on whether Acevedo's replacement will be an internal hire or come from another city's police department. Acevedo will continue serving in his role for the next "few weeks," Turner said, although his last day on the job has not yet been determined.
Prior to accepting the position as Houston's first permanent Hispanic police chief in 2016, Acevedo served as chief of the Austin Police Department. Over his tenure, Acevedo led the department through natural disasters including Hurricane Harvey, citywide celebrations and anti-police brutality protests in the wake of Houston native George Floyd's death. He also cultivated a national presence, often via social media, for his outspoken views touting gun reform and pushing back on some Republican leaders both in Texas and in Congress. He also serves as the president of the Major Cities Chiefs Association. When asked whether he would prefer a candidate with a similar spotlight, Turner said he would not require Acevedo's replacement to take his same approach.
"No one person is indispensable; it's about the institution and the organization you are building," Turner said. "There is no question in my mind that Art was the right person at the right time."
Acevedo's tenure was not without controversy, serving over a botched narcotics raid that lead to the deaths of two residents and indictments of several officers. In September, Acevedo fired four officers for shooting and killing Houstonian Nicolas Chavez while he was experiencing a mental health crisis.
Turner told reporters he was not aware of Acevedo's decision until the afternoon of March 14 but praised the chief for his accomplishments while leading the Houston Police Department. Turner pointed specifically to Acevedo's role in bringing in night-shift investigators to collect evidence from overnight assault cases, establishing new special investigative units, leading through natural disasters and promoting "relational policing."
"In this business, I have hired people from other cities, and I'm sure it was a surprise to those mayors," Turner said. "It happens all the time, and what I will say to people is that everybody is here for a particular season, and no one is here forever."
The department shakeup comes alongside a rise in the city's homicide rate, surpassing 400 murders in 2020. Turner said he will be adding an additional cadet class in fiscal year 2021-22, bringing in a sixth class.
"I am looking for someone who will be very focused and getting on top of the crime and utilize resources in the most strategic way possible," Turner said.
On the topic of police reform efforts, Turner said the city will continue to focus on changes to the department proposed by the Mayor's Police Reform Task Force. Progress was already falling behind however: As a 90-day deadline for reforms proposed in the report passed in January, only five of over 60 proposed changes had been implemented.
"We are moving forward on that, and many of those things are being implemented as we speak, but my time table doesn’t mean that you don’t have winter storms or coronavirus," Turner said. "In terms of the reforms, I can assure you that we will continue to be focused, and it will be front of mind for the next person."
Editor's note: this post is updated to correct the number of homicides in 2020.