Houston Police Department Embroiled in Allegations of Brutality Again
By Houston Criminal Attorney John Floyd and Paralegal Billy Sinclair
In a 2007 blog, Paul Craig Roberts wrote that “ … Americans are in a far greater danger from their own police force than they are from foreign terrorists … The only terrorists most Americans will ever encounter is a policeman with a badge, nightstick, mace and Taser. A Google search for ‘police brutality videos’ turns up 2,210,000 entries. Some entries are foreign and some are probably duplications, but the number is so large that a person could do nothing but watch police brutality videos for the rest of his life. A search on ‘You Tube’ alone turned up 2,280 police brutality videos.”
Roberts is no wimpy-nimbi liberal. He was Secretary of Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of the National Review. He is the author or co-author of eight books, including “The Supply-Side Revolution” (Harvard University Press).
Thus, Roberts has impeccable conservative credentials. But he now sees the police as “Public Enemy No. 1,” not the criminals. Why? Roberts offers some insights:
“Police forces have always attracted bullies with authoritative personalities who desire to beat senseless anyone who does not quake in their presence. In the past police could get away with brutalizing blacks but not whites. Today white citizens are as likely as racial minorities to be victims of police brutality.
“The police are supreme. The militarization of the police, armed now with military weapons and trained to view the general public as the enemy, against whom ‘pain compliance’ must be used, has placed every American at risk of personal injury and false arrest from our ‘public protectors.’
“In ‘free and democratic America,’ citizens are in such great danger from police that there are websites devoted to police brutality with online forms to report the brutality.”
In pre-9/11 days, Human Rights Watch published a report titled “Shielded From Justice: Police Brutality and Accountability in the United States.” The report addressed the lack of accountability for police brutality in fourteen of the nation’s largest cities. The report stated:
“Police abuse remains one of the most serious and divisive human rights violations in the United States. The excessive use of force by police officers, including unjustified shootings, severe beatings, fatal chokings, and rough treatment, persists because overwhelming barriers to accountability make it possible for officers who commit human rights violations to escape due punishment and often to repeat their offenses. Police or public officials greet each new report of brutality with denials or explain that the act was an aberration, while the administrative and criminal systems that should deter these abuses by holding officers accountable instead virtually guarantee them impunity.”
The Houston Police Department (“HPD”) recently found itself embroiled in two serious instances where police brutality was alleged. The first case was reported in the Houston Chronicle on April 29, 2010 and involved the department’s gang unit. A video surfaced which reportedly showed a 15-year-old burglary suspect getting out of a car and fleeing from pursuing officers. A patrol car strikes the black teenager who then lies flat on the ground. An African-American officer runs up and kicks the defenseless suspect in the face. At that point the suspect was handcuffed and a group of other officers began punching and hitting him.
HPD Chief Charles McClelland promptly suspended a sergeant and seven other officers, promising a full and complete investigation. Mayor Anisse Parker was quoted in the Chronicle as saying this about the incident: “”We received information about it from a private citizen who was reviewing security tapes. He forwarded a copy of those tapes to the district attorney’s office and to the chief of police. They immediately took action. Because there is an ongoing criminal investigation, I can’t go into detail about the incident. But it is interesting that we didn’t know about this until we received the security tape. We’ve taken immediate action, and there will be a complete and thorough investigation. I want to thank the citizen who reviewed his security tapes and forwarded them so we could take action.”
Mayor Parker was clearly upset by the contents of the video, calling them “disturbing.” The local FBI apparently felt the same way. The Chronicle said the federal agency requested a copy of the surveillance video the day after the news media reported its existence. The accused burglary suspect in the video, Chad Holley, is a sophomore at Elsik High School and, along with his mother, plans to meet with the FBI to discuss the beating incident.
The day after the FBI requested the Chad Holley video, the Chronicle reported that Mayor Parker had announced the reassignment of three other HPD officers in connection with a Chinese diplomat being struck in the face during an arrest. She also praised Chief McClelland’s handling of that case.
“This is important, as Houston has the third-largest number of consulates in the country,” Parker told the Chronicle. “We cherish our international residents and want to assure them they are welcome in our city.”
The Chinese diplomat reportedly made it clear to the officers that he was a diplomat but was handcuffed anyway. He said one of the three officers then struck him in the face. The diplomat suffered hand and neck injuries during the unlawful arrest incident.
Both of these seemingly unnecessary incidents have proven to be a major embarrassment to the city of Houston, both with racial and international political implications. The HPD has a long history of questionable shootings, police brutality, and racial insensitivity. These two cases offer a perfect opportunity, if the evidence bears out the allegations, to bring HPD under the rule of law. When you have citizens like Peter Craig Roberts comparing this nation’s police to Gestapo, the evidence is convincing that large police departments like the HPD are out of control and need to be reigned in.
We have been on the front lines offering praise and support to the fine officers who protect and serve our community. We are safe only because they have the courage to risk their lives on a daily basis for us. But the good of the majority cannot serve as a license for the minority to engage in whatever lawless conduct they deem appropriate at the moment.
Mayor Parker has brought a new standard of leadership to our fine city. We hope she will continue to do so in these cases, if the investigations establish clear wrongdoing by the HPD officers.
By: Houston Criminal Lawyer John Floyd and Paralegal Billy Sinclair