TX Police Push Through Backlog of ‘Suspended’ Incident Reports

Houston Police Chief Troy Finner
Houston Police Chief Troy Finner | Image by Alex Bierens de Haan/Getty Images

After months of investigation, the Houston Police Department has released an update on its review of 4,017 adult sexual assault incident reports and 264,000 department-wide incident reports dating back to 2016 that were suspended under the code “lack of personnel.”

“This is what progress looks like. We are learning from any past mistakes in our case management and review protocols and making corrections as this review process continues. Our communications with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office and the Houston Forensic Science Center have improved, with frequent meetings being held to discuss best avenues in seeking justice for any survivors and complainants,” Police Chief Troy Finner said in a statement last week, announcing the completion of the review process and providing data on the effort.

The new review has led to the filing of 34 charges against 27 suspects, ranging from misdemeanors to violent crimes like aggravated assault, according to the data provided in Finner’s statement.

The police chief explained some of the efforts undertaken by the department, which included a total of 399 forensic interviews scheduled with survivors, alongside 1,767 officer visits to the last known addresses of victims.

Of the 4,017 cases reviewed, 3,462 have been cleared, suspended, or inactivated, most allegedly due to a lack of additional leads and not to the lack of resources or understaffing currently plaguing the department. The Houston Police Department has been suffering from a serious manpower shortage, similar to Dallas, which is short nearly 1,000 officers amid rising crime rates.

At present, the Dallas Police is operating with around 3,000 officers despite an analysis conducted by the City suggesting that about 4,000 officers are needed to effectively decrease response times and adequately ensure public safety in a jurisdiction the size of Dallas.

During the Houston Police Department’s review, significant progress was purportedly made in identifying potential suspects. Notably, 95 incident reports yielded DNA profile matches with individuals in the national Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), with 14 of these matches corresponding to profiles of individuals already incarcerated for separate crimes, per KPRC.

Finner said that while the CODIS matches provide valuable evidence, they do not conclusively prove an individual’s guilt. As such, the department is actively pursuing follow-up investigations on these cases.

In addition to rectifying past errors, Finner said the police department is focused on refining its case management and reviewing protocols to prevent similar issues in the future. He also highlighted the ongoing efforts to learn from past mistakes and implement necessary corrections in the review process.

While acknowledging the challenges posed by the extensive review, Finner reassured Houstonians that steady progress is being made on the previously lost cases. Through extensive efforts by on-duty personnel and those working extra shifts, the department is reviewing approximately 10,000 cases weekly.

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