Masterful, meditative, and measured, Houston’s new police chief Troy Finner arguably stole the show on an April 24 appearance on CBS’s Face the Nation.
Appearing among a distinguished assortment of city and national leaders in law enforcement and political advocacy groups, Finner spoke about his plans for the Houston Police Department’s future. (Watch the full video here.)
Reacting to the recent Derek Chauvin verdict, Finner remarked to host John Dickerson that it was proof that “no one is above the law. If you raise your right hand and take the oath to protect and serve and uphold Constitutional rights — and you do what he did — it’s a message that no is above the law.”
Speaking to the anxiety felt by some in local law enforcement after the verdict, Finner shed some light on that state of HPD. “I do have concerns about our troops on the front lines, but you have to remind them, what did they sign up for? They signed up to protect and serve.”
He also has reminded his staff of some 5,300 officers that “the majority of citizens in Houston and around the nation respect and honor police officers.” The chief also added that he has cautioned to not get “caught up in the negative noise,” and that communities and people of color “are hurting.
The way to remedy, said Finner, is to “give values to their perceptions and life experiences,” and to “get away from the negative” and “build bridges.”
How does Finner plan to build those bridges? The “deep-rooted” chief pointed to his more than three decades in Houston law enforcement. “We’ve got to reach out to non-traditional people. We’ve got to reach out to former gang members, we’ve got to reach out to hip-hop, everybody needs to be in the fight.”
De-escalation of potentially volatile figures to be prominent in Finner’s training regimen. “Sometimes the officers rush in,” he said of fatal encounters, “slow them down.” He also stressed that “sanctity of life is the most important thing. It’s important for everyone to go home — not only our police officers, but the general public.”
While building bridges and finding common ground, Finner minced no words when it came to the current trend of deadly interactions between Black Americans and police. “Let’s be honest … there are problems … too many unarmed African American or young males of color are being shot in our nation.”
However, he also pointed to “the good work” being done, specifically regarding race and diversity. For example, Finner noted that he is often asked by citizens why more officers of color aren’t present in certain communities of said color.
“I never want to discount the causcasian officers who’ve been in the Black and Latino communities for 25, 35 years and retired, never shot anyone, never had a complaint.”
The chief also teased new reforms by Mayor Sylvester Turner that would increase transparency in Houston law enforcement. “The public needs to know,” he said. “The quicker you put that body camera footage, the better.”
On the topic of “bad” police officers caught on camera, Finner pleaded for an open mind. “Don’t put all officers in one pot,” said Finner, on the topic of disturbing police videos, “just as officers shouldn’t put a particular community in one pot, because when we do that, guess who wins? The criminals and the bad police officers.”
Closing out the insightful segment, Finner sounded more of an American leader than a local top cop. “Let’s come together and have difficult conversations,” Finner said, “and let’s love one another in our nation.”