Houston, TX -
Today Mayor Sylvester Turner announced the creation of a 45-person Police Reform Task Force.
While Transform Houston always supports working to find ways to reform how law enforcement interacts with members of the community, the current model being proposed by Mayor Turner is problematic in a number of ways.
- The 45-person board does not include any individuals currently associated with Black Lives Matter Houston. Moreover, it includes only one organization that is part of the Houston Right2Justice Coalition which has already offered community driven policy recommendations on policing to Mayor Turner.
- A number of individuals represented on the task force have been employed by law enforcement agencies. If our goal is to explore ways to end the status quo problems with modern policing, having so many individuals at the table who have been deeply entrenched within those broken structures seems counterproductive to achieving meaningful reform.
- Mayor Turner has now had 2 separate bodies recommend police reform measures - both his 2016 Transition Committee on Criminal Justice and a 2017 report on fiscal responsibility and economic growth. The recommendations from both of those reports have yet to be implemented. At today's press conference the Mayor seemed to dismiss the recommendations as no longer valid given the current movement to reform our policing system. To be clear, there are measures that have been proposed that could be immediately implemented by Mayor Turner that would begin the process of reforming how HPD does its work.
- Finally, Pastor Max Miller is listed as a member of the task force. Pastor Miller is well known as an anti-LGBTQ activist who worked tirelessly to spread misinformation about Houston's transgender community during the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance City Council debates and ballot initiative.
According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, "more than one-fifth (22%) of transgender people who had interacted with police reported police harassment, and 6% of transgender individuals reported that they experienced bias-motivated assault by officers. Black transgender people reported much higher rates of biased harassment and assault (38% and 15%).
Transgender people who have done sex work or participated in underground economies often report elevated levels of police violence—this includes 16% of all trans people, 34% of Latino/a trans people, and 53% of Black trans people.
Trans people who have done street economy work are more than twice as likely to report physical assaults by police officers and four times as likely to report sexual assault by police. NCTE believes that dangerous conditions fostered by criminalization and police abuse are the primary threat to the safety of sex workers."
Transform Houston has severe reservations that any reform policy recommendation by this task force that would directly impact the lives of transgender and non-binary Houstonians in a positive way may be jeopardized by the inclusion of Pastor Miller, given his long history of anti-LGBTQ activism and dangerous rhetoric.
Mayor Turner's new task force has been given between 60 and 90 days to make recommendations on policing reforms. Transform Houston feels that delay is unacceptable given the fact that recommendations by the Mayor's own team and community led organizations have already been proposed.
If Mayor Turner's goal is to enact meaningful policing reform for the City of Houston he has already been given ample recommendations and he need only act.