Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo has delivered a message to his command staff: No more bankers’ hours, the Houston Chronicle reports. “The only entity really working 24/7 was patrol,” he recalled, “and violent crime was happening at all hours of the night.” He is leading one of the nation’s largest police departments in a hands-on, decisive, outspoken, and a bit unorthodox manner. In the six months since taking charge, he is setting a furious pace in overhauling a frayed department struggling with slowing response times, aging equipment, a dwindling corps of officers and growing pressure nationwide over law enforcement’s use of force.
Acevedo, the first Latino tapped to lead the Houston department, quickly began meeting with civil rights groups and civilians, promising transparency and accountability, while assuring officers – and their union – he’s got their back. He has publicly opposed the state’s political leaders over the controversial “sanctuary cities” legislation and backed new funding for the city, all in the name of public safety. He created a new unit to investigate officer-involved shootings, prioritized investigations of gun crimes, revamped the department’s command structure and altered uniform policies to accommodate the Houston heat and officer tattoos. After a troubled roll-out of body cameras under his predecessors, he is working to equip officers with cameras that turn on automatically to avoid the perception they have something to hide. Acevedo acknowledges some decisions aren’t popular. “People don’t like change, cops especially don’t like change; it’s human nature,” he said. “We’re an organization on the move, and there are very few things we can’t change.”