Now that the Harris County District Attorney’s Office announced charges against the two officers involved in Houston Police Department’s deadly Harding Street Raid, a lot of attention will shift to the upcoming legal proceedings and all of information that will be sure to follow.
But Houstonians would be wise to pay an equal amount of attention to the mayor’s administration and police department leadership, as it happened under their watch and little has been done to reassure the public that something like this won’t happen again.
The raid took place on January 28, roughly seven months ago, after a tip came in about drug use and guns at 7815 Harding St. Officers responded to the call, didn’t find anything and, as reported in local news, passed information along to the narcotics unit which then shared it with Officer Gerald Goines.
Goines arranged a drug-buy to justify the raid which killed Dennis Tuttle and Rhogena Nicholas and their dog. After the incident, investigators discovered that only small amounts of drugs were found, the alleged informant couldn’t be identified, which then led to Goines admitting he made it up.
No mayor or police chief can be involved in every single aspect of a department and ultimately there will be miscommunication and missteps between them and the so-called “bottom of chain”. But, similar to a parent raising their child and being reassured that the lessons instilled will guide their actions when the parent isn’t around, it’s up to city leaders to create a culture of accountability where every one of their employees will carry themselves with the utmost integrity, at all times.
Following District Attorney Kim Ogg’s announcement that charges were being handed down to two officers involved in the raid, Police Chief Art Acevedo took to a podium to say that these actions didn’t extend beyond the two officers, Goines and Steve Bryant. That statement is hard to swallow when the system that Acevedo oversees has allowed these officers the space to perpetuate crimes against the public without regard for being caught.
Not enough has been done to show that the administration and police chief are moving towards truly reforming and restoring the Houston Police Department and the public’s perception of it.
The note that allegedly sparked the raid was a handwritten note on a yellow legal pad passed from one patrol officer to her significant other, a narcotics lieutenant. The lieutenant then passed the information to Goines. Questions need to be answered about the way that information is vetted within the department and how true, verifiable leads are differentiated from what amounts to no more than gossip.
If the allegations of ongoing misconduct by Goines are true, HPD needs to show how they are changing the culture and empowering officers to hold each other accountable and that starts with the chief.
Lastly, and equally as bad is that both Goines and Bryant retired while under investigation allowing them to collect their full pensions.
“According to a 2017 tally by George Mason law professor D. Bruce Johnsen, 31 states had laws under which police officers can lose their pensions if they are convicted of certain crimes. Texas was not one of them,” wrote one article.
This is a problem that both the city and the state should be looking at.
The mayor and police chief should not get to ignore this issue now that the DA has moved forward with charges. It’s time for the public to demand accountability from the leaders who serve them.