- Associated Press - Friday, December 30, 2016

HOUSTON (AP) - Only five Houston police shootings of unarmed individuals since 2010 have resulted in disciplinary action by the police department and none in criminal charges against officers, according to an analysis.

Officers were punished in five of 40 such cases, the Houston Chronicle (https://bit.ly/2hzqh8v ) reported. The officers weren’t criminally charged, and the disciplinary actions weren’t announced to the public.

All five officers were disciplined for policy violations that occurred when they shot people while off-duty. Those shootings were determined to have been “justified.”

The newspaper’s investigation into the cases required cross-matching data from the city, Houston Police Department and the Harris County District Attorney’s Office because the police department’s internal affairs probes are confidential.

Incoming Police Chief Art Acevedo has promised to increase transparency and beef up reviews under his tenure. He said he plans to work with the mayor and incoming District Attorney Kim Ogg to make available summaries of videos, audio and witness statements for cases involving civilians shot or killed by an officer. Acevedo, previously in Austin, has also proposed creating a separate investigative unit to probe all police shootings, which are currently handled by HPD’s homicide and internal affairs divisions.

About 70 to 80 percent of the Police Department’s officer-related shootings involved armed people, but 20 to 30 percent involved those who are unarmed. Several cases have resulted in the filing of federal civil rights lawsuits by the wounded or the victim’s families.

Attorney and criminal justice consultant Keith Howse said the police department’s internal affairs reviews have too easily deemed officer-related shootings justifiable, citing more than a dozen questionable cases where investigators relied heavily on officer statements.

“This pattern and practice over a seven year period raises a concern of the much-discussed ‘Blue Wall’ of police protecting each other and indicates a possible ‘circle the wagons’ methodology utilized by the Houston Police Department when conducting officer-involved shooting investigations,” Howse said.


Information from: Houston Chronicle, https://www.houstonchronicle.com

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