02-19-2017  8:03 pm      •     

HOUSTON (AP) -- City officials announced Friday that two new independent panels will be reviewing Houston's police department, which has come under fierce criticism after a video surfaced this month that appears to show officers kicking and stomping a black teenage burglary suspect.

Mayor Annise Parker said the new oversight panels are part of an effort to restore the public's trust in police, and will review policies and procedures at the department.

``If a culture exists within (the Houston Police Department) that continue the behavior that was displayed on the video, we will root it out and we will put in place best practices that will prevent it from reoccurring,'' Parker said.

The surveillance video appears to show several officers kicking, punching and stomping on 15-year-old Chad Holley during his arrest last year at a self-storage business in southwest Houston. Four officers have since been fired and Holley's family has sued the city, and although a judge barred the video's release, a community activist showed footage to media outlets this month.

Since then, several town hall meetings have been held where residents described other incidents of alleged mistreatment by police.

On Friday, Parker said the city also planned to hire an independent group to investigate the police department's culture.

She said the newly created Independent Police Oversight Board will replace the existing Citizens' Review Committee, which some community activists had criticized as ineffective. The new board will consist of 20 members appointed by the mayor.

Its members will reflect the city's demographics and include experts in criminal justice, including retired judges and prosecutors, Parker said.

The board will have the authority to review all disciplinary cases against police officers and make its own recommendations to Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland. It will also review and offer recommendations regarding the hiring and training of police officers.

The existing Police Advisory Committee will be renamed the Public Safety Advisory Committee and will hold monthly meetings to listen to citizens' concerns.

``This is an excellent opportunity for us to improve the Houston Police Department, improve our relationship with the community and make a positive change,'' McClelland said. ``I need your help to make this a police department that all Houstonians can be proud of.''

But some civil rights groups were unhappy, saying the changes are cosmetic and didn't address one of the major things they had been requesting: giving a citizens review panel subpoena powers.

The panels ``have no power whatsoever to investigate. We don't see any substantive changes. It's not independent and it's certainly not transparent,'' said Randall Kallinen, a civil rights attorney who is a member of the Greater Houston Coalition for Justice, a group that includes 16 local and national civil rights organizations.

Kallinen said civil rights groups, not the mayor, should appoint the panels' members.

Leaders in Houston's black community have been calling for changes in how police misconduct cases are investigated since Holley's arrest in March 2010. Their calls for change intensified after the video surfaced this month.

In the video, Holley is on the ground and is surrounded by at least five officers. He appears to be kicked in the head, abdomen and legs by the officers, even after he has been placed in handcuffs.

Police said the teen was arrested following a brief chase after he and three others had allegedly burglarized a home. The teenager's mother has said her son's nose was fractured, and he had multiple bruises.

The four officers who were fired are set to be tried on various charges. Holley, now 16, was convicted in October in juvenile court of burglary and put on probation.

Kallinen's group and two local members of Congress have asked the U.S. Justice Department to investigate the alleged beating.

State Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, who credited Parker with creating the new review panels, said he and other state lawmakers are considering legislation to address some of the issues brought up by the alleged beating.

Some of the ideas include making it easier statewide to establish independent citizen review boards and allowing police chiefs to consider incidents of misconduct when determining promotions.

Recently Published by The Skanner News

  • Default
  • Title
  • Date
  • Random
  • WASHINGTON (AP) — One month after the inauguration, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Donald Trump's White House still is a hard-hat zone. Skeletal remains of the inaugural reviewing stands poke skyward. Random piles of plywood and cables are heaped on the ground inside crooked lines of metal fencing. The disarray outside the president's front door, though not his fault, serves as a metaphor for the tumult still unfolding inside. Four weeks in, the man who says he inherited "a mess" at home and abroad is presiding over a White House that is widely described as itself being a mess. At a stunning pace, Trump has riled world leaders and frustrated allies. He was dealt a bruising legal blow on one of his signature policies. He lost his national security adviser and his pick for labor secretary to scandal. He's seen forces within his government push back against his policies and leak confidential information. All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. "I can't believe there's actually a politician doing what he says he would do," says an approving Scott Hiltgen, a 66-year-old office furniture sales broker from River Falls, Wisconsin. "That never happens." Disrupt Trump has. But there may be more sound and fury than substance to many of his early actions. Trump did select Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a nomination that has drawn strong reviews from conservatives. But the president is regrouping on immigration after federal judges blocked his order to suspend the United States' refugee program and ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which had caused chaos for travelers around the globe. Some other orders on issues such as the U.S.-Mexico border wall and former President Barack Obama's health care law are of limited effect. Trump says his early actions show he means to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign. "A lot of people say, 'Oh, oh, Trump was only kidding with the wall,'" the president told a group of police chiefs recently. "I wasn't kidding. I don't kid." But the Republican-led Congress is still waiting to see specifics on how Trump wants to proceed legislatively on top initiatives such as replacing the health care law, enacting tax cuts and revising trade deals. The messy rollout of the travel ban and tumult over the ouster of national security adviser Michael Flynn for misrepresenting his contacts with Russia are part of a broader state of disarray as different figures in Trump's White House jockey for power and leaks reveal internal discord in the machinations of the presidency. "I thought by now you'd at least hear the outlines of domestic legislation like tax cuts," says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. "But a lot of that has slowed. Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. At his long and defiant news conference on Thursday, Trump tried to dispel the impression of a White House in crisis, squarely blaming the press for keeping him from moving forward more decisively on his agenda. Pointing to his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, Trump said, "You take a look at Reince, he's working so hard just putting out fires that are fake fires. I mean, they're fake. They're not true. And isn't that a shame because he'd rather be working on health care, he'd rather be working on tax reform." For all the frustrations of his early days as president, Trump still seems tickled by the trappings of his office. When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visited the White House last week to discuss the national opioid epidemic over lunch, the governor said Trump informed him: "Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.'" Trump added: "I'm telling you, the meatloaf is fabulous." ___Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nbenac
    Read More
  • FDR executive order sent 120,000 Japanese immigrants and citizens into camps
    Read More
  • Pruitt's nomination was strongly opposed by environmental groups and hundreds of former EPA employees
    Read More
load morehold SHIFT key to load allload all