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Houston Police Department’s New Acting Chief Discusses Internal Investigation and Plans for Tackling Challenges

Houston’s new acting police chief, Larry Satterwhite, is facing the challenge of addressing the internal investigation into an incident code that resulted in hundreds of thousands of cases being sidelined. Coming from an operational background, Satterwhite brings fresh ideas to tackle this issue. He takes over from former HPD Chief Troy Finner, who retired amidst concerns from officers and ongoing discussions with Mayor John Whitmire.

The investigation into the incident code was prompted by new information, including an email obtained by 13 Investigates. The email, sent in July 2018, highlights a road rage case labeled as “Suspended-Lack of Personnel,” despite having a witness who identified a suspect. Finner responded to the email, expressing his dissatisfaction and requesting further investigation. However, neither Finner nor former Chief Art Acevedo, who was also copied on the email, recall hearing about the specific code.

Mayor Whitmire considers this email the “final straw” and expresses concern about HPD being overwhelmed by discussions of new information. Finner’s retirement announcement followed shortly after the email’s discovery. Acevedo, in a phone interview with 13 Investigates, questions the significance of the email, emphasizing that it only focused on one crash and did not mention the code in question.

Amidst these developments, Satterwhite takes over as acting chief and acknowledges the need to familiarize himself with the internal investigation. He admits that he cannot recall when he first learned about the code but finds it challenging to accept its use in violent crime cases. Satterwhite, a proponent of a decentralized approach, intends to implement strategies that will enhance effectiveness and improve collaboration among officers and detectives in the field.

Although the code allowing for case suspension due to a lack of personnel is no longer in use, personnel concerns persist at HPD. With 5,164 officers currently serving, Finner had been advocating for the addition of 2,000 more officers. Satterwhite intends to continue this effort, believing that a larger police force could make a significant difference in serving the public.

Mayor Whitmire wants Satterwhite to prioritize officer recruitment, retention, and morale-building. The goal for next year is to hold five cadet classes with a minimum of 75 recruits in each class. However, expanding the police force will require increased funding, which will be addressed in the upcoming budget.

Whitmire hopes that under Satterwhite’s leadership, there will be fewer distractions and a return to core police work, such as crime fighting and improving response times. The mayor acknowledges the impact of recent events on recruitment efforts and wants the focus to shift back to the essential duties of the police department.

Meanwhile, HPD is reaching out to victims whose contact information may have changed since they filed their reports. They are encouraged to call or email the special victims unit to ensure their cases are properly addressed.

In conclusion, as Houston’s new acting police chief, Larry Satterwhite faces the challenge of addressing an internal investigation into a code that led to the sidelining of numerous cases. With his operational background, Satterwhite brings fresh ideas and emphasizes the importance of effective collaboration among officers and detectives. The city’s focus is on recruiting and retaining officers while boosting morale. Ultimately, the goal is to restore the police department’s focus on crime fighting and response times, ensuring that victims receive the care and service they deserve.

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