Understaffed Texas PD Finds 264K Suspended Cases

Houston Police Units
Houston Police Units | Image by City of Houston

The Houston Police Department’s backlog of erroneously suspended cases is even bigger than first reported, according to a statement from Houston Police Chief Troy Finner on Monday.

He posted on social media platform X that more than 260,000 criminal cases had erroneously been suspended since 2016, far more than the 4,000 cases originally discovered more than a week ago.

Finner hosted a press conference last week to announce the department would launch an investigation into why 4,000 adult sexual assault cases had been suspended using a code denoting “Lack of Personnel.” Finner said such a code should never have existed, per Houston Public Media.

The initial annoucement about the discovered code came on February 16.

“I have learned a significant number of adult sexual assault cases were suspended due to ‘Lack of Personnel,’ which is unacceptable,” the statement from Finner read. “Sexual assaults are some of the most traumatic cases for victims and their families.”

“Regardless of staffing challenges, this should have never happened and will not continue,” the statement continued. “All victims and their families are important to me and deserve to be treated as such.”

Finner said the code used to suspend the cases will no longer be utilized.

“We have found that some are duplicate reports,” Finner said at a press conference days later, adding, “We’re going to need a little bit of time” to continue the investigation.

Finner said his team investigating the matter includes a commander and 22 individuals, with 10 more investigators soon to be added. The team will review the cases and conduct further investigations through interviews.

Houston Police Officers Union President Douglas Griffith said the code was implemented in 2016, so he is unsure who is to blame.

“Now, I don’t know who came up with it. It had to be someone in the higher ranks of the department, I’m sure, because that doesn’t just happen overnight. You don’t just get to make up codes and put them in,” he said, per Houston Public Media. “It’s just astounding to me that it’s been allowed to go on and that no one’s picked it up before now.”

Griffith said the department must work to regain the trust of their city.

​​”We’ve had that issue for a while with law enforcement, and this erodes it even more,” he said, according to Houston Public Media. “And it just breaks my heart; officers don’t want to have to go tell citizens that their case was not investigated, but we’re gonna have a team that’s gonna end up having to do that, and hopefully, we’ll be able to bring some of these cases to closure.”

This news was followed by the revelation this week that other types of crime had also been erroneously suspended.

“Our review of adult sex crime cases suspended with a code of ‘lack of personnel’ has expanded to include all other divisions in the department found to be using that same code,” Houston PD announced on Monday. “We have determined that department-wide approximately 264,000 such incident reports since 2016 were suspended with this code.”

“That figure represents about 10% of the 2.8 million incident reports filed with HPD in the past eight years,” the statement continued. “Of those 264,000 reports, about 100,000 of them are property crimes. Our efforts to review sexual assault incident reports and contact potential victims continue. We are also moving additional personnel to other investigative divisions to address these incident reports involving crimes against persons.”

Finner said last week that the department must focus on expanding its staff to ensure better accountability in the future.

“We’re still short, as some say, 2,000 officers,” he said, according to Houston Houston Public Media. “So we do the best that we can do, but that’s not good enough when we’re not investigating sexual assaults.”

Marissa Hansen, an investigative journalist, said Houston has failed to adequately fund its police department while spending nearly $40 million for grant programs for art in the city last year.

“This is just heartbreaking,” she told The Dallas Express. “Houston officials and so-called leaders have continuously lied and failed their constituents, putting them in harm’s way. Their actions have left 264,000 victims awaiting justice so they could misappropriate millions of COVID-19 funds and taxpayer money painting UN murals as well as erecting bike lanes.”

The Dallas Police Department has experienced a similar staff shortage, which has led to increased response times, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.

As previously reported by The Dallas Express, DPD has only around 3,000 officers on staff, even though a prior City analysis recommended approximately 4,000 to maintain public safety and reduce response times.

“The reality of it is … I can have a class of 50 people that start Academy today, but we’re not going to recognize their efficiency and their effectiveness for a year and a half after the Academy and training and everything else. So equally as important, if not more so, is the retention of men and women,” DPD Chief Eddie Garcia previously told DX.

Dallas has likewise been hampered by a limited budget this fiscal year. City officials have given the DPD a budget of just $654 million this year, considerably less than the spending levels in other high-crime municipalities such as New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

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